In today’s Gospel passage, we see that Peter had the insight to recognize Jesus as the Messiah, and then the Lord called him and commissioned him to shepherd others into the same realization.
We, too, know that Jesus is our Lord and the Good Shepherd as described in Psalm 23. Therefore we, too, are called and commissioned to shepherd the people whom we encounter. We’re to lead them to Christ the way a shepherd herds his flock.
But what about the people who don’t want to be shepherded?
In today’s first reading, Peter tells us how to do it, even when others don’t recognize that it is good to follow Jesus: Be a good example. Don’t lord it over those whom God has placed in your life, because only Jesus is Lord. When people look at us, they should see Jesus — not bad attitudes, not unlovingness, not apathy, not argumentativeness, not depression or doom and gloom, not despair and hopelessness, not materialism, not selfishness.
In other words, we have to put a lot of effort into overcoming our sinful tendencies, because our lives are the Shepherd’s staff, prodding the people around us. We either prod them toward Jesus and his sheepfold, or we push them away from the life that Jesus wants for them.
Sheep follow their shepherd because that’s how they find greener pastures. What have you learned on your spiritual journey that would benefit others? Any oases that Jesus has led you to become places of your expertise. Now, you can shepherd others to the same places. Whom do you know in need of rest from their hardships and healing from their wounds? Shepherd them with what you have learned.
Being a shepherd means you also know about the wolves. Many sheep are totally oblivious to the dangers that lurk, but you have been given the responsibility of guarding against evil. Because Jesus is with you, the wolves can and will be defeated. However, they will only be conquered when you stay close to Jesus.
We cannot successfully lead others to Christ without a good prayer life, knowledge of the scriptures, and ever-growing holiness. And we cannot be good shepherds if we neglect to overcome our sins, because then we’re playing with wolves. We must cover our vulnerabilities with the armor of God by getting right with him and getting rid of any known areas of disobedience.
Being a shepherd is risky. Wolves attack our vulnerabilities. Some of the sheep behave like wolves. And sometimes we need to repent from acting wolfish ourselves.
At the Church of the Primacy of St. Peter by the Sea of Galilee, where today’s Gospel story took place, there’s a sign that says, “The deeds and miracles of Jesus are not actions of the past. Jesus is waiting for those who are still prepared to take risks at His word because they trust His power utterly.”
Pray with me: “Lord Jesus, I say yes to Your calling, no matter how risky it seems. I choose to trust in Your guidance, Your directions. What do You want me to do?”