The pastor of my parish, Monsignor Jack Schuler, gave a wonderful homily this morning that I wanted to pass along: The Gospel reading was, "Seeing the people, [Jesus] felt compassion for them, because they were distressed and dispirited like sheep without a shepherd" (Mt.9:36).
Fr. Jack pointed out how, without a shepherd, sheep become lost. He shared his experience of once being lost in a forest while hiking. It sounded terrifying - not knowing which direction to turn, whether or not you were expending energy moving in the wrong direction, and whether you would make it to safety before darkness fell. If we think far enough back into our childhoods, I bet each of us can recover a time when we were terrified by the feeling of being lost.
Fr. Jack moved from there to talking about how we figuratively describe someone as being lost. They lack direction in life, focus. This hit home with me because I had used that word "lost" to describe an acquaintance's behavior yesterday. As Fr. Jack spoke I asked myself whether or not I sometimes feel lost. I can be confused over events in my life, that's for sure; but no, I realized that deep down I never feel truly lost.
As Father went on to point out, Jesus is the Shepherd that we turn to for direction. I feel so incredibly grateful to Him for opening my eyes to the destination I am being led toward - eternal life with Him; and I'm grateful that no matter how confusing the events of life get, He keeps redirecting my eyes toward the goal of the journey. Moments of grief and depression come, but in His mercy, Jesus has always put my eyes back on the prize and given me the assurance that He is a good enough shepherd to help me navigate through the present trouble and deliver me Home. My heart broke for those who have yet to recognize Jesus' identity as their Shepherd - how hard it would be to face life without the overarching conviction that there is a Destination to be sought and a Shepherd who wants to intervene to bring you there.
I thought about the many ways Jesus' direction is available to us. He speaks to us through Scripture about which actions lead to abundant life and which lead to the death of the soul. He speaks through the Church's Tradition, the dogmas of our Faith. He guides us through the questions of modern life (such as contraception and IVF) via the Church's Magisterium, the teaching of the Pope and Bishops. And He nudges and speaks directly to our hearts during our times of prayer, especially during the celebration of the Eucharist.
Lets pray and look for ways to share Jesus' loving concern with those who seem to be wandering lost. We all know the feeling. We don't want to approach them with a triumphalistic, "I know the way." Rather, like Jesus we want to feel compassion for them (Mt.9:36). We should recall when we have felt lost and assure them that not only are we praying for them as they try to get their bearings, but we're here to talk and do what we can to help. Share the way the Shepherd has led you and the difference that it has made.