Speaking of compassion, Henri Nouwen once wrote: “compassion asks us to go where it hurts; to enter into the places of pain; to share in brokenness, fear, confusion and anguish. Compassion challenges us to cry out with those in misery; to mourn with those who are lonely; to weep with those in tears.”
Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. The gospel draws a comparison between the way the good shepherd and the hireling relate to the sheep and the wolf. For the hireling, this is just a job; he has no real interest in the sheep; they are not his own. There are limits to his compassion, to what he will tolerate. When he sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.
Whereas the good shepherd sees the sheep as his own: “I know mine, and mine know me.” He is moved with compassion at all times; he feels for the sheep.
The gospel invites me to reflect on the quality of my shepherding. Am I more like the good shepherd or the hired man?
- Is my world inclusive enough to hear the calls of each sheep? Or do I only hear the call of some?
- Do I hear the call of the ones left in the margins? The ones easily ignored, the stereotyped?
- Do the sheep know my voice? Do I know theirs?
- Do I hear the sheep in distress? The sheep that is hungry?
- The one that is imprisoned by the thorns and brambles of race, color, gender and sex?
Or am I like the one who is hired?
- Have I set limits on my compassion?
- On my tolerance?
- Have I set a limit on what I am prepared to take?
- What am I prepared to put up with?
And what about the wolf?
- Does my compassion reach out to the wolf? or is the wolf none of my concern?
- Isaiah (11 v.16) foretold of a time when “the wolf lives with the lamb, the panther lies down with the kid.” Is that too fanciful an image for me to believe is possible?
Well then perhaps I should remember this is the Fourth Sunday of EASTER.
EASTER… the time when the impossible happens. When huge boulders roll away, tombs fall empty, fear gives way to courage, ………and wolves lie down with lambs!