Nudging to Nourishment | Friar Reflections | Fourth Sunday of Easter

Dear Parishioners,

Saints of God, the Lord be with you!

As I’ve said before, Good Shepherd Sunday (John 10:11-18) is not easy for me to preach on. I’ve had no experience with sheep, nor have I ever met a shepherd of sheep. But in the “Sourcebook for Sundays, Seasons, and Weekdays” the author of the reflection on this text reminds us that, “a good shepherd knows that it is best to lead from the back, gently nudging the flock toward nourishment and keeping out of harm’s way” (p. 182).

This reminded me of my time teaching English in Santurce, Spain during summer vacation. (I did this for three summers before I reentered the friars, and though the days were long, the pay was wonderful.) I knew no Spanish and was told that’s why I got the job. I did have a wonderful Spanish aid, Susanna, who assisted in class, and at the local tapas bar the English teachers and aides frequented every night. Every Wednesday, we’d take my class of 20 children on an outing by bus to the sea, or another town. She was the leader, and I with a big, tall walking stick in hand, followed behind, making sure no one wandered away. It was very stressful, but the kids seemed to enjoy this time away from a full day of classroom instruction. I never lost anyone. I don’t know if they were afraid of me or afraid of the stick.

This idea of “nudging” people to nourishment, to faith, fidelity, and forgiveness, is to my mind exactly how Jesus ministered to people and lived His life. While in homilies I’ve never used the word “nudged”, I have used the word “invited”. The Greek word for “good” can also be translated as “beautiful” or “exemplary”.  Jesus was a beautiful and exemplary shepherd in that He never beat His followers over the head, never scolded nor scared them, but by word and deed showed them how much they were loved. He was a good shepherd since, in the end, He even laid down His life for them. Who Jesus was then He is even more so now. He invites and nudges us. He doesn’t beat nor scold us. He laid down his life for us and rose from the dead for us.

All of us should be shepherds for one another. Parents, you are the shepherds of your children. Grandparents, you too are shepherds for adult children, guiding them by example; caring, praying with and for your grandchildren. My prayer for us all who are the Church is that we lead one another to nourishment by gently guiding one another. My prayer for all of us is that we also have the humility to be guided especially when we find ourselves in difficult situations. My prayer for all of us is that we let ourselves by nudged by Jesus, the Good Shepherd, so that we who are God’s children now may come to realize who we shall be when all has been revealed (1 John 3:1-2).

– Fr. Steve Kluge, OFM