May holds up for us two towering features of our faith: Jesus, our Good Shepherd; and Mary, His Mother. In fact, this year, we rejoiced in both figures, as Mother’s Day occurred on Good Shepherd Sunday.
We give Jesus many titles as we attempt to express our faith and love. Think about some of them:
Lord; Savior; “the way, the truth, the life”; the Divine Physician; the Sacred Heart...we could think of more...
...but one of our favorites is Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
Granted, that touching image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, would have been much better understood by the people of His time, as they were more acquainted with the role of a shepherd as one who kept his flock of sheep united, safe, fed, watered, nurtured.
But, the image of a shepherd is so familiar to us that we find it compelling in any age.
So, Jesus is our Good Shepherd, we are His trusting sheep.
Jesus still tends us; He is our Good Shepherd now:
He leads us to lifegiving waters in Baptism;
He feeds us in Holy Communion;
He reunites us to the flock when we wander, due to sin, through the Sacrament of Penance, confession;
He protects us from danger by the sound teaching of His Word and His Church;
He consoles us by listening to our prayers;
He keeps us together in His Church;
And, at the end, He leads us, when we die, to the eternally verdant pastures of heaven.
Can I suggest another way He shepherds us?
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, tends to us through our moms.
In my recent trip to Ukraine, Poland, and Slovakia, I visited with hundreds of refugees. They were all moms, grandmothers, and children. The children are frightened, some traumatized, missing their dads who remained in Ukraine to defend their country; they are homesick, confused.
And they huddle around their moms, who hold them, console them, watch over them. Those moms are scared, too; they miss their husbands; they worry about the future...but, they have no time for themselves, because they only care for their kids, their children. They are shepherds; Jesus, the Good Shepherd, works through them.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, gave all of us His own mother, one of His final gifts from the cross, remember? No wonder the image I saw most in Ukraine, Slovakia, and Poland was that of Mary, our blessed Mother, holding in her arms her boy, her child, Jesus, our Good Shepherd.
Blessed Joseph Cardinal Mindszenty, the brave Primate of Hungary in the tortured post-World War II decades of Soviet oppression, himself a good shepherd for his flock, wrote:
“The most important person on earth is a mother. She cannot claim the honor of having built Notre Dame Cathedral. She need not. She has built something more magnificent: a dwelling for an immortal soul, the tiny perfection of a baby’s body...The angels have not been blessed with such a grace. They cannot share in God’s creative miracle to bring new lives into the world and saints to heaven. Only a human mother can. Mothers are closer to God the Creator than any other creature. God joins forces with moms in performing this act of creation... what on God’s good earth is more glorious than this: to be a mother.”
Jesus, our Good Shepherd, thank you for shepherding us yet today in so many ways, including our moms. Thanks for giving us your mother from your cross!