One day a man stopped in a convenience store to get a newspaper. He noticed that the owner of the store had tears in his eyes and kept looking out the window. He asked what was going on.
The store owner said, “Do you see that bus bench over there? There’s a woman who comes there every day around this time. She sits there for about an hour, knitting and waiting. Buses come and go, but she never gets on one and no one ever gets off for her to meet. The other day, I carried her cup of coffee and sat with her for a while.
“Her only son lives a long way away. She last saw him two years ago, when he boarded one of the buses right there. He is married now, and she has never met her daughter-in-law or seen their new child. She told me, ‘It helps to come here and wait. I pray for them as I knit little things for the baby, and I imagine them in their tiny apartment, saving money to come home. I can’t wait to see them.’”
The reason the owner was looking out the window at that particular moment was that the three of them--the son, his wife and their small child--were just getting off the bus. The look on the woman’s face when this small family fell into her arms was one of pure joy. And this joy only increased when she looked into the face of her grandchild for the first time. The store owner commented, “I’ll never forget that look as long as I live.”
The next day the same man returned to the convenience store. The owner was again behind the counter. Before the store owner could say or do anything, the customer said, “You sent her son the money for the bus tickets, didn’t you?”
The store owner looked back with eyes full of love and a smile and replied, “Yes, I sent the money.” Then he repeated his statement from the day before, “I’ll never forget that look as long as I live.” (King Duncan, Collected Sermons, Sermons.com).
We love the story because the man shows that he is a caring person. He knows and understands the woman’s situation, and he takes action to help. He helps because he cares. He cares enough to send his own money to make possible the reunion for the poor woman and her son’s family. This man has the heart like that of the Shepherd’s. Every one of us could be this man. We could have a heart of the Shepherd as well. Jesus uses the image of a Shepherd to describe himself. We He is the Shepherd, and we are his sheep. But as believers, we are also sharing in the ministry of shepherding. Every one of us is also a shepherd to someone. And a shepherd is one who knows and understands his sheep. The shepherd lays down his life for his sheep. As our shepherd, Jesus is reassuring us that he knows us. He understands our needs. He puts his life on the line to protect us. This is a consoling as well as a challenging message to all of us. It is consoling because we know Jesus is there for us. It is challenging because we are also expected to be there for the people entrusted to us.
Often during the Mass, at the Consecration when I elevate the Host and remember that Jesus is there, I have a great feeling of consolation and trusted . His presence makes me feel secured, trusted and worried-free. Jesus is laying down his life for me. He is laying down his life for us. This laying down of his life happens at every Mass. Jesus is not lying. He means what he says and he says what he means. Jesus is a good shepherd to us. We can learn from him to be good shepherds to others as well. As true believers, we don’t have to worry about anything but be attentive and responsive to the voice of our Good Shepherd.
Jesus says that his sheep know him and follow him. Knowing the shepherd and following his voice require us to be attentive and responsive to his voice. Many people say that they believe in Jesus Christ, but never take time to listen to his words. They are not attentive to him and to his voice. When they are not attentively listening to Jesus, they do not know which voice is his; consequently they don’t know how to respond to him. There are many voices speaking to us in this world, commercial voices and political voices, voices from conservatives and voices from liberals, legal voices and moral voices, religious voices and secular voices, voices from our friends and voices from our family, voices from the Church and voices from the media, voices from the Holy Spirit and voices from the devils. All these voices are trying to get our attention. All these voices are looking and waiting for our response. And today, Jesus is calling us to pay attention and respond to his voice. When we are attentive and responsive to his voice, we will be protected and safe. We will be led to eternal life. Peter and John and the disciples become true believers and fearless because they are attentive and responsive to Jesus. They become fearless in proclaiming their faith in Jesus Christ. Their faith in Jesus Christ gives them the power to heal the cripple man and the ability to do many other marvelous things. These marvelous deeds do not come from their own power but from the man Jesus Christ. Many people also become believers because they are attentive and responsive to the voice of these apostles. It is the shepherd’s voice that is important and the sheep are not ignorant, but attentive and responsive to their shepherd.
How would you feel when you hear the teacher of you child telling you how good your child conducted in school? You always get good feelings of satisfaction when you hear that your children have conducted themselves well when you were not there. What a joy to hear back after your kid spent the night at a friend’s, “Oh, your son was so polite.” Or after a party you are told, “Your daughter was so great at listening to my grandmother.” Or after a special meal, “Your kids were the first ones up to help clear the table.” Knowing your kids are practicing what you’ve preached — even when you are not around — makes every parent feel like they’ve won a medal. The truth is we are all children. We all have a parent, God, watching out for us and over us and encouraging us to behave in a certain way, all the time. We behave well because we are attentive and responsive to the voice of the Shepherd. We can make God proud of us! We can be a joy for God.