Wanted: Modern day shepherds

Al Cariño
Reproduced with Permission

A story is told of a four-year old boy whose sister had a very rare disease. She needed blood transfusion of the same type which must come from a relative. The doctor asked the boy whether he was willing to give blood so that his sister would live. On hearing this, the boy was shocked. But after a while, he recovered and bravely answered, "Sure, I'll do it." While lying on his bed after the blood transfusion, the boy asked the doctor, "Doctor, when do I die?" Only then did the doctor realize that the boy thought he was going to give all of his blood to his sister. The doctor reassured him that they had only taken a small amount of his blood and that he would not die.

From this story, we can readily see what the boy was willing to give to save his sister's life. On Jesus' part, He had given us all His blood to save us from death, eternal death. But that is for later. For now, Jesus' concern was to proclaim the Gospel of the Kingdom which was accompanied with the curing of every disease (Mt. 9:36-10:8). For He knew that the root of suffering, sickness and death was the people's alienation from God, namely, sin. Thus when He healed as He proclaimed the Good News of our salvation, it was a sign that their deliverance from the domination of the devil "is near."

While walking the road of Palestine, Jesus saw the condition of the people—poor, oppressed and helpless. They were like sheep without a shepherd and He had compassion for them. For he knew only too well the plight of a flock without a shepherd—they strayed, fell prey to the wolves or thieves and got trapped among thorns eventually bringing about an agonizing death.

For this reason, Jesus called twelve men to be His apostles, His fellow shepherds. Their initial mission was very specific: "Go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. As you go, make this proclamation: `The kingdom of heaven is at hand.' Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, drive out demons." Their proclamation of the Kingdom along with the healing of the sick, consoling the lonely and brokenhearted, raising the dead, and driving out demons, that is, give hope to the hopeless—were signs that the "Kingdom is at hand."

To bring hope amidst sufferings and ultimately bring about the people's redemption were things that only the Father in His goodness and love could do. So Jesus told the apostles, as He is also telling us now, to pray to the Father for more workers: "The harvest is plentiful but the workers are few. Ask the Lord of the harvest, therefore, to send out workers into his harvest field."

There is something that comes out very clearly in all this. Jesus called the apostles and sent them on mission not because of their worth but because of the people's needs. If this was true in Jesus' time, it is also true in ours. Today, the needs of people are just as immense if not more, what with the much more complicated social, economic and political order that is in place. We just have to open our eyes and see how we can answer the needs of those with whom we are in contact to see what this "development" has brought about. No matter who and what we are, as Christians, we are called to be apostles, shepherds, to this new "needy". All we need is faith in Jesus and His compassionate heart.

There are many ways that we can be shepherds today. We can show our children who are daily bombarded with electronic media along with the values they bring—more often than not contrary to what Jesus taught—that we really care for them. Thus more than just giving them our love, we are also to spend more time with them.

We are also to extend this love and concern outside our homes. Thus we may give food to the hungry, drink to the thirsty and clothing to those without. Even better, we may give them a job or assist them to find one or be self-employed so that they can support their families in a way worthy of their calling as children of God. We may contribute to charitable organizations dedicated to help those with less in life or better still give some of our time in their service. We may participate in politics and economics so that there will be a more equitable and just social, political, and economic order for all. Finally, we may contribute our share to rebuild our environment so that our basic needs and that of future generations shall be provided for.

How are we to give this service? Again, Jesus was very specific: "Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give." This is what Jesus is asking of us as His shepherds. He wants us to freely share our gifts of faith and life—unto death if need be—so that others will live a decent human life now and eternal life thereafter.

Easy to do? Definitely not. And definitely not easier than what the little boy did when he gave blood to his sister. But do it we must.