God commanded Samuel to anoint David, a shepherd, to be king for His people. Scripture records he was a man after God’s own heart (1 Sam 13:14). When our Lord walked among us, He was the king from eternity who came to be our shepherd. He came to save us from those who took advantage of their positions and led His people astray. He came to save us from our own iniquity.
From the beginning, this was always His plan, foretold by the prophets and fulfilled in Christ—to shepherd His flock in the name of David. We were lost in our sin until He gathered us into His arms to lead us home to His pastures.
As His sheep, we hear His voice. Where do we hear it? We hear it in truth as He is the way, the truth, and the life. When truth is hard to accept, that is our deficiency not His. When we stray, He is not the one who is lost. We come to Him in humility seeking reconciliation for our waywardness and follow Him.
St. Augustine says, that to prevent the sheep from seeking assistance by her cries, the wolf seizes her by the neck, and thus securely carries her away and devours her. The Devil acts in a similar manner with the sheep of Jesus Christ. After having induced them to yield to sin, he seizes them by the throat, that they may not confess their guilt; and thus he securely brings them to Hell. For those who have sinned grievously, there is no means of salvation but the confession of their sins (St Alphonsus Liguori).
In trying to meditate deeper on this reflection from The Personal Rosary, I have found that Scripture and the Church have said all that needs to be said. It’s a beautiful, unfolding revelation of God’s love for His own.
1 The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I lack.
2 In green pastures he makes me lie down;
to still waters he leads me;
3 he restores my soul.
He guides me along right paths
for the sake of his name.
4 Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil, for you are with me;
your rod and your staff comfort me.
5 You set a table before me
in front of my enemies;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
6 Indeed, goodness and mercy will pursue me
all the days of my life;
I will dwell in the house of the Lord
for endless days.
1 Shout joyfully to the Lord, all you lands;
2 serve the Lord with gladness;
come before him with joyful song.
3 Know that the Lord is God,
he made us, we belong to him,
we are his people, the flock he shepherds.
4 Enter his gates with thanksgiving,
his courts with praise.
Give thanks to him, bless his name;
5 good indeed is the Lord,
His mercy endures forever,
his faithfulness lasts through every generation.
10 Here comes with power
the Lord God,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.
11 Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
leading the ewes with care.
Parable of the Shepherds. 1 The word of the Lord came to me: 2 Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel. Prophesy and say to them: To the shepherds, thus says the Lord God: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves! Should not shepherds pasture the flock? 3 You consumed milk, wore wool, and slaughtered fatlings, but the flock you did not pasture. 4 You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the stray or seek the lost but ruled them harshly and brutally. 5 So they were scattered for lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. They were scattered 6 and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; over the entire surface of the earth my sheep were scattered. No one looked after them or searched for them.
7 Therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 8 As I live—oracle of the Lord God—because my sheep became plunder, because my sheep became food for wild beasts, for lack of a shepherd, because my shepherds did not look after my sheep, but pastured themselves and did not pasture my sheep, 9 therefore, shepherds, hear the word of the Lord: 10 Thus says the Lord God: Look! I am coming against these shepherds. I will take my sheep out of their hand and put a stop to their shepherding my flock, so that these shepherds will no longer pasture them. I will deliver my flock from their mouths so it will not become their food.
11 For thus says the Lord God: Look! I myself will search for my sheep and examine them. 12 As a shepherd examines his flock while he himself is among his scattered sheep, so will I examine my sheep. I will deliver them from every place where they were scattered on the day of dark clouds. 13 I will lead them out from among the peoples and gather them from the lands; I will bring them back to their own country and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel, in the ravines and every inhabited place in the land. 14 In good pastures I will pasture them; on the mountain heights of Israel will be their grazing land. There they will lie down on good grazing ground; in rich pastures they will be pastured on the mountains of Israel. 15I myself will pasture my sheep; I myself will give them rest—oracle of the Lord God. 16The lost I will search out, the strays I will bring back, the injured I will bind up, and the sick I will heal; but the sleek and the strong I will destroy. I will shepherd them in judgment.
Separation of the Sheep. 17 As for you, my flock, thus says the Lord God: I will judge between one sheep and another, between rams and goats. 18 Was it not enough for you to graze on the best pasture, that you had to trample the rest of your pastures with your hooves? Or to drink the clearest water, that you had to pollute the rest with your hooves? 19 Thus my flock had to graze on what your hooves had trampled and drink what your hooves had polluted. 20 Therefore thus says the Lord God: Now I will judge between the fat and the lean. 21 Because you push with flank and shoulder, and butt all the weak sheep with your horns until you drive them off, 22 I will save my flock so they can no longer be plundered; I will judge between one sheep and another. 23 I will appoint one shepherd over them to pasture them, my servant David; he shall pasture them and be their shepherd. 24I, the Lord, will be their God, and my servant David will be prince in their midst. I, the Lord, have spoken.
25 I will make a covenant of peace with them and rid the country of wild beasts so they will dwell securely in the wilderness and sleep in the forests. 26 I will settle them around my hill and send rain in its season, the blessing of abundant rain. 27 The trees of the field shall bear their fruits, and the land its crops, and they shall dwell securely on their own soil. They shall know that I am the Lord when I break the bars of their yoke and deliver them from the power of those who enslaved them. 28 They shall no longer be plundered by the nations nor will wild beasts devour them, but they shall dwell securely, with no one to frighten them. 29 I will prepare for them peaceful fields for planting so they are never again swept away by famine in the land or bear taunts from the nations. 30 Thus they shall know that I, the Lord, their God, am with them, and that they are my people, the house of Israel—oracle of the Lord God. 31 Yes, you are my flock: you people are the flock of my pasture, and I am your God—oracle of the Lord God.
24 David my servant shall be king over them; they shall all have one shepherd. They shall walk in my ordinances, observe my statutes, and keep them. 25 They shall live on the land I gave to Jacob my servant, the land where their ancestors lived; they shall live on it always, they, their children, and their children’s children, with David my servant as their prince forever.
36 At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.
31 “When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit upon his glorious throne, 32 and all the nations will be assembled before him. And he will separate them one from another, as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. 33 He will place the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.
4 “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? 5 And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy 6 and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’ 7 I tell you, in just the same way there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous people who have no need of repentance.
The Good Shepherd. 1 “Amen, amen, I say to you, whoever does not enter a sheepfold through the gate but climbs over elsewhere is a thief and a robber. 2 But whoever enters through the gate is the shepherd of the sheep. 3 The gatekeeper opens it for him, and the sheep hear his voice, as he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out. 4 When he has driven out all his own, he walks ahead of them, and the sheep follow him, because they recognize his voice. 5 But they will not follow a stranger; they will run away from him, because they do not recognize the voice of strangers.” 6 Although Jesus used this figure of speech, they did not realize what he was trying to tell them.
7 So Jesus said again, “Amen, amen, I say to you, I am the gate for the sheep. 8 All who came [before me] are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. 9 I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved, and will come in and go out and find pasture. 10A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy; I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly. 11I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. 12 A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. 13 This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. 14 I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, 15 just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep. 16 I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. These also I must lead, and they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd. 17 This is why the Father loves me, because I lay down my life in order to take it up again. 18No one takes it from me, but I lay it down on my own. I have power to lay it down, and power to take it up again. This command I have received from my Father.”
31 “Now is the time of judgment on this world; now the ruler of this world will be driven out. 32And when I am lifted up from the earth, I will draw everyone to myself.” 33 He said this indicating the kind of death he would die.
Jesus and Peter. 15 When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, “Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Feed my lambs.” 16 He then said to him a second time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” He said to him, “Yes, Lord, you know that I love you.” He said to him, “Tend my sheep.” 17 He said to him the third time, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter was distressed that he had said to him a third time, “Do you love me?” and he said to him, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.” [Jesus] said to him, “Feed my sheep. 18 Amen, amen, I say to you, when you were younger, you used to dress yourself and go where you wanted; but when you grow old, you will stretch out your hands, and someone else will dress you and lead you where you do not want to go.” 19 He said this signifying by what kind of death he would glorify God. And when he had said this, he said to him, “Follow me.”
Catechism of the Catholic Church
“The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep [LG 6; cf. Jn 10:1-10; Isa 40:11; Ezek 34:11-31; Jn 10:11; 1 Pet 5:4; Jn 10:11-16] (CCC 754).
1 Peter 2
24 He himself bore our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed. 25For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
1 Peter 5
2Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. 3 Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock. 4 And when the chief Shepherd is revealed, you will receive the unfading crown of glory.
13 Then one of the elders spoke up and said to me, “Who are these wearing white robes, and where did they come from?” 14I said to him, “My lord, you are the one who knows.” He said to me, “These are the ones who have survived the time of great distress; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.
15 “For this reason they stand before God’s throne
and worship him day and night in his temple.
The one who sits on the throne will shelter them.
16 They will not hunger or thirst anymore,
nor will the sun or any heat strike them.
17 For the Lamb who is in the center of the throne will shepherd them
and lead them to springs of life-giving water,
and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes.”