"I AM the Good Shepherd." This Our Lord says of Himself. Our Lord had other titles, as Jesus, Saviour, Redeemer, Master, Advocate, King of peace, Our Reconciliation, all signifying His love for mankind.
Are you, my dear young people, glad of the title of good Shepherd, which Our Lord gives Himself? Yes, the title is a beautiful one; it is full of consolation and of love. He gives Himself this title in order to gain our affection and our entire heart. How good Jesus is to us. His lambs and sheep! What care does He not take of us? He speaks to our hearts words of eternal life, and His holy inspiration illumines our mind and makes us know His goodness. He takes us up tenderly, and brings us to delightful pastures. He nourishes our souls with His holy word, by the words of His priests; He feeds us with bread which is not of this world, the Bread of angels. His sacred Body and Blood. Was there ever a shepherd who gave his body and blood for food to his flock? Generally the flock is a source of revenue, support, and sustenance to the shepherd; but not so in the case of this Good Shepherd. He supports and sustains His flock.
Of course the shepherd will fight for his flock, he will use every means in his power to protect it from ravage, but the Good Shepherd gives His life for His flock. 0, infinite love! What pains and suffering didst Thou not endure for Thy sheep! Just think of Jesus crucified; look at Him nailed to the cross; see that face all covered with bruises; those eyes half closed with blood; those shoulders torn by stripes; that side opened by a lance; those hands and feet pierced with nails, and that head crowned with sharp thorns. All this, all these wounds, the Good Shepherd suffered for His poor lost sheep. Then what should we do on our part? Oh, give Him at least a little recognition, gratitude, obedience, and love if nothing more than to receive Him on the great festivals of the year. This good Shepherd will love you with all affection and give you His choicest blessings.
There are, on the contrary, many restless, ill-regulated, sickly, plague-stricken sheep who have to be thrown out of the flock, because they continually disobey Him and make Him feel the sadness of having shown kindness in vain. He would like to bring them to good pastures that they might recover from their maladies, and become useful members of the flock again, but they will not listen to His voice. He calls them to the use of the sacraments, but it is in vain; He calls them about Him to be His escort and companions, but they would rather be far away from Him; they want to feed their souls on poisonous food; they do not like the restraint of being near the holy Jesus. They have left the fountains of living water which ran to eternal life. They have looked for water and found filthy broken cisterns.
Among you, my dear youthful friends, there are many wayward sheep also. This Good Shepherd seeks to bring them back to the fold, but many are obstinate, blind, and wicked, and will not hear His voice. He invites them with sweet and coaxing words; He makes them feel the qualms of conscience; He embitters the cup of vice from which they are drinking and takes peace and happiness away from them. But these wicked sheep will not listen and continually say by their works,
"No, I will have nothing to do with you." What more should this Good Shepherd do to gain them and to bring them back to His flock? Can you suggest something? Is it possible that God will not succeed in attracting them to Him? Will He not succeed when He promises them the kingdom of paradise? He must and will get angry some time; He will abandon them and deny them the help of His grace, and then they will fall from one sin to another.
How many young people, my dear friends, are in such a state. In early youth they become vessels of wrath, and if God still tolerates them, the day of vengeance will come, the day on which God will separate the bad from the good. And to the bad He will say,
"Depart from Me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire."
Now, there is still time to change your way of living; you can become the well-loved lambs and sheep of the flock of Christ, instead of being the despised rams that the Shepherd does not tolerate near Him. Go to Him and show your sorrow, and He will take you on His shoulders, for He is waiting and looking for you. He is watching you in your wanderings, and at the first sign of repentance, of weakness, or of fainting. He hastens to your side. He raises you on His shoulders, and carries you back to the fold which you would not have been able to reach with your wasted strength.
My young friends, we are all sheep of the flock of Christ; we are His by redemption and by the grace of almighty God. Be always obedient to Him, hear His voice, and walk continually in His footsteps. Would you walk securely in the midst of this world, so full of danger and snares? The only means is to allow yourselves to be guided by God. If you would please the divine Shepherd, imitate Him in His divine virtues, in His kindness and obedience, like good sheep who are willing to be led. The divine Shepherd having loved His flock on this earth, will call them all to the enjoyment of heavenly pastures and will quench their thirst "At the torrents of joy" which He provides for us in heaven.
Source: Sermons for Children's Masses, Imprimatur 1900