A reflection for the Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In calling himself “the Good Shepherd,” Christ likened us to his sheep, but every simile has a limit. Our Lord did not herd livestock, and we are not animals. Indeed, the challenge in Christ’s analogy lies in a fundamental difference between us and sheep. Sheep do not have any trouble trusting the shepherd. We do.
Christ wants us to trust him, to follow him through the narrow gate and into life itself. If this were easy to do, he would not need to identify himself as the Good Shepherd. If we were real sheep, we would simply follow, but we suffer fears that the animals are spared. We do not simply fear what we see; we are terrified by what we can only imagine.
Faith casts out fear but only in the measure that it grows toward perfection. In our own time, when the church and culture are so riven by division, fear, even among people of faith, is understandable. It comes from the very real dangers we perceive, the values we see as threatened. But we cannot allow anxiety to lead to anger. Asperity betrays an absence of faith. Worse than a priest proclaiming that he knows who is going to hell is the delight that so many find in his approach. It is wolves, not shepherds, who snarl.
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The Rev. Terrance W. Klein is a priest of the Diocese of Dodge City, Kansas, and author of Vanity Faith.
With thanks to America Magazine and Rev Terrance Klein, where this article originally appeared.