Sunday 8 February 2015

4th Sunday of Easter Year B

What sort of motivation do we have when we are given a task to do? Some people would do a task because it is their job to do so, and they expect to be well paid and receive other rewards for the work done. Such people may be motivated by better income, better job security, better promotion prospects, or even approval and recognition from others, especially from the peers and the boss. But what if the task at hand happens to be unglamorous, few others are keen to do, and prospects and recognition are limited or non-existent? Would you still be willing to take on such a task and give it your all?

In today's Gospel, Jesus tells us that He is the good shepherd. He also contrasts between a good shepherd and a hired hand. Is Jesus trying to tell us that a hired hand, or a person who is paid to perform a task, is bad or not any good in any way? No! Jesus is not concentrating on the payment, because from time to time we do hear of hired hands who are just as committed as the good shepherd. What Jesus is focusing more about is the attitude and the level of commitment of the shepherd. That is the main aspect Jesus wants to differentiate. Why so? We should be aware that sheep are quite different from other animals. Animals generally have a leader of the pact or head which they follow and depend on. For most other animals like monkey, tiger or lion, the animal can be a leader or a follower. But not sheep. Sheep are not able to lead other sheep but depend on a shepherd to survive. If sheep were left on their own, they may get into trouble very easily and quickly.

We come across many sheep in our society who are unable to care for themselves. In this case we need someone to guide them. That someone is a shepherd. Some “shepherds” are paid to take care of the sheep and such people are called hired hands, especially since they are only doing a job and they are more attracted to good rewards and other perks. If trouble comes, for example a wolf, fox or bear is about to attack the sheep, such people may quite likely run away, as they would not dare to lose their life for an animal. But if it is the shepherd who is caring for the sheep, then the sheep have a better chance of survival, as the shepherd would be willing to lay down even his life for his sheep. To a good shepherd, caring for sheep no longer becomes merely a money making activity or to gain recognition or popularity, it becomes a vocation.

Therefore, we need to ask ourselves honestly: Have we become more and more materialistic and self-centered, that our wants and needs have taken precedence over the needs of our community and our parish church? Do we expect only the priests and religious to be the shepherds and we just step aside and take things easy? Or have we begun to become more like the good shepherd, doing our part to care for the flock and willing to make sacrifices for the good of all?

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