The Heart of a Shepherd

Whether it is the theological Advent that looks into the Second Coming of Christ, or the more familiar Advent that constitutes a preparation for Christmastime, what is particularly striking in the readings today is the insistent description that “The Lord our God comes in strength.”

Advent and Christmastime often make us imagine God in the image of the Christ Child. But this is what today’s liturgy insists, that God is strength, power, majesty, absoluteness. Even the first reading from Isaiah declares: “He is our God. Here he comes with power, the Lord God, who rules by his strong arm.” The beauty of the gospel, however, is that it specifies where God’s strength lies.

The power that makes God truly unmatched in strength and stability is this: God has the heart of a shepherd who never tires taking care of us, a shepherd who never tires of searching for lost sheep. Applied to us, we often get lost and we make the same mistakes, the same favorite sins. Each one of us, in our own uniqueness and weaknesses, are black sheep. Amidst all this, God remains unmoved in his compassion, patience, understanding, love and mercy for us.

The parable of the lost sheep shows us how much emphasis Jesus places on love, mercy and compassion. Just as the Good Shepherd reaches out to the one sheep that is lost, so must we. As true disciples of Jesus, there is no place for self-righteousness. We must be on our guard lest self-righteousness displaces compassion and mercy in our hearts. Try to put Jesus’ teaching today into practice by reaching out with compassion to someone who is lost or in need. We don’t have to look far. People in need are all around us.