“In our Gospel reading Jesus tells some pharisees and us that he is the Good Shepherd. At least at some level his audience would have understood this metaphor of the Good Shepherd. They were immersed in an agrarian society. They would have been familiar with sheep and shepherds and how shepherds and sheep interact with each other. Jesus is humbling himself as self identifying as the shepherd. Shepherds were very low in the socio-economic pyramid of those days. Shepherds were not wealthy. They weren’t educated. They didn’t have any power in society. They slept on the ground. They were dirty and they probably smelled pretty bad. Sheep are naturally vulnerable. They have poor eyesight. They can’t run very fast and they have no defensive mechanism against predators. Of course in this metaphor we’re the sheep. On our own we have poor eyesight because we can’t see things as they are and on our own without Jesus we have no defenses against the devil and his deceptions. We’re helpless without the Good Shepherd. The good news is that just like sheep we can come to know Jesus and know his voice and be included in his flock and of course the implication from our reading is clear that if we don’t know Jesus we won’t be included in his flock. We come to know Jesus just like all of our relationships through frequent and intimate conversation. No fancy words are necessary. In fact, Jesus prefers just authentic conversation in our own words and we should tell Jesus frequently how we are feeling, what we’re mad about, what we’re afraid about, what we like, what we dislike, who we like, who we dislike and what we’re grateful for. Jesus is very approachable. Because this is a conversation we should also listen for Jesus’ responses to us. For virtually all of us except maybe mystics these responses aren’t audible, but they’re real and through those responses we can see things for what they are and therefore become wise. Jesus’ responses to us allow us to see God’s will for today, our short-term vocation.
There are lots of theories about how to really get to know Jesus in prayer. I have these suggestions: Pick a specific time and place every day for your prayer and it should be a quiet time and a quiet place for your prayer because Jesus speaks to us in the silence and I also suggest having something to read with you such the scripture readings from Mass for that day and that way if you have trouble, which we often do have trouble getting started in our conversation with Jesus, it can help us get started and if we run out of words to say to Jesus it can help us get restarted. If you think that you don’t have enough time to get to know Jesus in prayer I have another suggestion and that is to take out a piece of paper or you can do this on your computer and make a spreadsheet and for each column each column can be a day of the week and each row can be a 30 minute interval in the day. The first one will start when you wake up and the last one will end when you go to sleep and then fill in the cells with what you normally do and if you’re like me you can find at least 30 minutes every day to spend time getting to know Jesus. The wolf would like nothing more than for us to conclude that we’re too busy for prayer and when we give in to that temptation in essence what we’re saying is, ‘I’d rather idolize some material of creation rather than getting to know the creator.’ Just like the Shepherd and the sheep it isn’t flashy or glamorous, but it is our be all end all being in Jesus flock. It’s the long-term vocation for each one of us, being in Jesus’ flock and because of that nothing else really matters and as Peter explained in his first reading, ‘There’s no salvation without being in Jesus’ flock.’
Today is the world day of prayer for vocations and this is a good day for us to pray for our young people that they might be open to discern God’s will for them during their life, their mid-range vocation and it’s also a good day for us to pray in gratitude for our local shepherds, Fr. Tom and Fr. Viet. Without a priest, we don’t have the Eucharist.”