The most important, practical, and helpful advice I can give you is to urge you to make Jesus more and more the center of your lives, to turn more and more toward Jesus, to move more and more toward Jesus, to think more and more about Jesus, to listen more and more to Jesus, to dwell more and more in the presence of Jesus. The more you make Jesus the center of your life, the more you open yourselves to Jesus, the more you do what Jesus does, the better your life will be in every way. This I can guarantee from my own personal experience. We have a short Gospel verse here, packed with insight, and I just want to say 3 little things about it.
First, Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd and calls us his sheep, his flock, and says that we hear his voice, he knows us, we follow him, he gives us eternal life, and we will never perish. I think this is a great image that sums up our entire lives. This is the meaning of life. Jesus is our Shepherd and we are his followers, his flock. We listen to his voice, we hear his voice, we go where he leads us into greener pastures and we know that as long as we follow Jesus, we are safe.
But that means, if we are going to be members of Jesus’ flock, we can’t belong to any other flocks. If we are going to let Jesus be our Good Shepherd, we can’t have any other shepherds. You can only follow one shepherd, and there is only one Good Shepherd. You can’t be members of several flocks at the same time. So I invite you to reflect on this. Who is your shepherd? Whom do you follow? I think that most Christians in the U.S. claim to follow Jesus their shepherd, but they also want to follow others shepherds and be part of other flocks. But if Jesus is your shepherd, and you are a member of his flock, then the president can’t be your shepherd. You can’t be a member of the flock of the U.S. military, or the National Guard, or some corporation or a political party. From now on, we refuse all those false shepherds and those wayward flocks. From now on, we are going to be members of the flock of the nonviolent Jesus. We are going to listen to his voice and follow him and go where he leads us and not follow any other shepherd and not go along with all the other lost sheep. From now on, Jesus shepherds us, and he is leading us on the path of love, nonviolence and mercy into new pastures of peace.
Second, Jesus says that no one can take us out of his hand, that no one can take us out of God’s hand, that our lives are in good hands because we are in the hands of God. We are held in the palm of God. So I invite you to ponder this beautiful image, that your life is held in the palm of God. What does that mean for you? Do you feel protected by God, as if you are in God’s hand? How would your life be different if you lived every day as if you were in the hand of God? Doesn’t that mean that from now on, no matter what happens, you are safe, you have nothing to fear because God protects you? I think there are social, economic and political ramifications to this spiritual truth as well, that we need do not need weapons to protect us because we are in the hand of God which protects us; that we do need to support America’s wars and imperialism because we are in the hand of God; that we do not need to focus on money or power or prestige or the pressures of the world, but simply rest in the hand of God.
Finally, in the Book of Revelation (7:9-17) we hear that if we follow the Good Shepherd, if we trust that we are in the hand of God, one day we will be led to the altar, where we will join a multitude in praising Jesus the beloved, and God will wipe away all our tears and there will be no more crying, no more suffering, no more hunger, no more violence, no more wars and no more death. I invite you to reflect on this great promise and to continue doing what you can to live as if it is true now, even to help make it come true now here on earth! This is where we are headed, toward the new life of resurrection, but eternal life begins today. From now on, we follow the Good Shepherd, serve God’s reign of justice and truth here on earth, and rest in the peace of the hand of God.