SURVIVING IN A HOSTILE WORLD:
Three Life‐Saving Skills... from Sheep
by Fr. John Mary
PRACTICAL WISDOM The Word of God, in its simple language, is teaching us essential lessons for the difficult challenges we face today. If we receive them with an open heart, they lead us to eternal life.
NOT FLATTERING BUT REAL
Scripture often compares us to sheep. It’s not a very flattering comparison.... Sheep are not strong, swift, agile, or smart. Or even well‐protected like a turtle. And yet they have survived and thrived.
Not a comparison that flatters our ego. But it does teach us essential skills for living in a hostile world.
RECOGNIZE THE DANGERS
We can have a sentimental view of sheep. Scripture takes a very realistic approach. It recognizes that sheep are very vulnerable.
And they are exposed to many dangers. Dangers that reflect our situation today. Through the prophet Ezekiel (Ch. 34) the Lord speaks of sheep who are not being fed; who are sick, crippled, strayed, lost, harshly treated. “My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains... with none to search or seek for them.” Because they have no shepherd, they are stalked by the wild beasts, who prey on them, ripping them apart and devouring them. Jesus Himself speaks of the wolves that attack the sheep. And “the thief (that) comes only to steal and kill and destroy.”
These menaces reflect the many dangers that we face today. “Be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” A first step to survival is recognizing that there are grave dangers. A sheep that doesn’t recognize them will not last long....
In the face of these dangers, what can we do?
It’s here that the sheep have three vital lessons to teach us.
HUMILITY: ACKNOWLEDGING THE TRUTH ABOUT OURSELVES **
An arrogant, stupid sheep who imagines that — faced with all these dangers and enemies — he can take care of himself, will soon provide the beasts with a delicious meal.
But if the sheep simply recognizes the truth of its own weakness, it has taken a key step towards surviving.
Simply recognizing our weakness, our sinfulness, our ignorance is a powerful step towards survival.
FAITH: TRUSTING THE GOOD SHEPHERD
However, something more is needed. Once the sheep recognizes that it needs help, it needs to find that help. It needs a good shepherd.
Here Jesus reveals something unheard of: A Shepherd Who lays down His life for His sheep, so much does He care for them. A Shepherd with mercy. A Good Shepherd.
But it’s not enough that the sheep have a Good Shepherd. They need to trust Him.
The Good Shepherd has to help us. Calling us each by name to Himself. At the same time, though, He respects our freedom. We must freely choose to trust Him; or not.
OBEDIENCE: FOLLOWING THE SHEPHERD
Because it’s not enough to simply say, “I trust Him.” If they truly trust this Good Shepherd, that leads them to the final decision: They listen to His voice and they follow Him. And if they do, He gives them eternal life, “...and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of My Hand.”
He leads them on the path that He Himself has walked. A difficult path. But one which leads to His Eternal Kingdom.
I’ve been sharing what I think are the three key virtues that the Lord is calling MDM to live and to share: Humility, faith and obedience. In the challenges that we are facing, these show a simple but sure road through the dangers. As we prepare for this Jubilee Year of Mercy, let us acknowledge our need for His Mercy, trust in His Mercy and obey the Lord of Mercy.
The Lord is my Shepherd