Christ, Our Good Shepherd

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Saturday of the First Week of Advent

Matthew 9:35–10:1, 5a, 6-8
Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” Then he summoned his Twelve disciples and gave them authority over unclean spirits to drive them out and to cure every disease and every illness. Jesus sent out these Twelve after instructing them thus, “Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: ‘The Kingdom of Heaven is at hand.’ Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons. Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” 
Opening Prayer: Jesus, thank you for shepherding me yourself. Help me to hear your voice in your word and follow it always.
Encountering Christ: 

  1. The Lost Sheep: Let’s take a moment to imagine Jesus looking over the crowd with pity. He looked at his people and saw despair, confusion, sinfulness, and want. He saw no one leading them in the right direction. They were spiritually wandering aimlessly: “All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way” (Isaiah 53:6). Sheep that stray away from the fold can get lost or hurt, or die easily: “They were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and when they were scattered, they became food for all the wild beasts” (Ezekiel 34:5). Jesus fulfilled Ezekiel’s prophecy of the Good Shepherd: “For thus says the Lord God: Behold, I, I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out. As a shepherd seeks out his flock when some of his sheep have been scattered abroad, so will I seek out my sheep; and I will rescue them from all places where they have been scattered on a day of clouds and thick darkness” (Ezekiel 24:11-12). Jesus himself seeks out the lost, hurt, and blind. He binds them up and heals them himself.
  2. God with Us: The false religion of Deism teaches that there is a creator, but that he does not care for the earth or its people. He simply created the universe, set creation in motion, and now leaves us to fend for ourselves. No, God will not abandon or forsake us. God has been here for us for all time. He leads us in all circumstances: “It is the Lord who goes before you; he will be with you, he will not fail you or forsake you; do not fear or be dismayed” (Deuteronomy 31:8). He is our Good Shepherd. He leads, feeds, protects, guides, and teaches us himself: “The Lord will give you the bread you need and the water for which you thirst. No longer will your Teacher hide himself, but with your own eyes you shall see your Teacher, while from behind, a voice shall sound in your ears: ‘This is the way; walk in it,’ when you would turn to the right or to the left” (Isaiah 30:20-21). He is with us in the Eucharist, spiritually and physically present for us at every sacrifice of the Mass and in every Catholic tabernacle. His name is Emmanuel, God with us (Matthew 1:23, Isaiah 7:14). 
  3. He Still Shepherds Us: Jesus also ensured that his sheep would be cared for after his time on earth was over. First, he gave his authority to the Apostles, empowering them to drive out demons, heal, and even raise the dead (Matthew 10:1). Later he gave them authority to forgive sins, an even larger share in his plan for salvation (John 20:22). This authority of the Apostles was transmitted down through the centuries to our bishops today. There is a clear line of apostolic succession from St. Peter to Pope Francis. The authority of Christ is passed down through these ordained men from age to age, ensuring that we will not be left comfortless (John 14:18). We have the guidance of the Church to shepherd us. We have the gift of the Holy Spirit, the Advocate, who pours forth from Christ and God the Father to comfort and teach us in all things (John 14:26). Christ himself continues to shepherd us through the Holy Spirit and the teachings of the Church. We are not aimless sheep in danger; we are beloved sheep. 

Conversing with Christ: Jesus, it is so amazing to me that you shepherd me yourself. I am sorry for the times when I have strayed away from your gentle guidance and protection. Thank you for the gift of the Holy Spirit and your one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church to guide me. Jesus, help me to stay safe and cared for by staying close to the fold of your Church. Jesus, I trust in you to shepherd me through all things.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will consider if I have not been docile to your voice, my Good Shepherd. I will repent and make a plan to confess any rebellion to your will in my heart. 
For Further Reflection: Listen to the hymn I Will Not Leave You Comfortless by Everett Titcomb, sung by the Concordia Chamber Choir.
Written by Carey Boyzuck.

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