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Flock

Though I am weak, God is strong…

Christ as the Good Shepherd (Anonymous)

Have you ever seen a flock of sheep? Living in the city and being a true city-girl, I have not ever really had to deal with flocks of sheep before in my life. However, when one of my cousins married a beautiful country girl almost 20 years ago, I got quite close to a flock of sheep while celebrating that wedding on her parent’s farm.


Sheep are not the most fragrant animals in the world. They smell quite strongly, and their wool, which is infused with lanolin, leaves a sort of oily residue on your hands when you touch them. And sheep are not very clever creatures. They are entirely dependent on their shepherd. In fact, if a sheep is left unattended and without the care of their shepherd, the sheep’s fleece will grow so long that it will suffocate the sheep because it is too heavy, and it will cause the sheep to starve to death because the fleece will surround its mouth so thickly that the sheep will be unable to eat.


And so – for sheep – their safest thing for them is to remain with their flock, all grouped together, under the watchful eye of the shepherd and within the confines of the paddock the shepherd has chosen for them. And though the shepherd could chase after all the sheep in the flock using his own two legs, he uses his sheep dogs instead. It is better for him and better for the sheep.

I have been thinking about these sheep and this flock and even the sheep dog used by the shepherd for the good of the sheep as I have been thinking of the Good Shepherd…

You see, the Good Shepherd keeps all His sheep in His paddock so that they will be safe. We are the sheep, and the Church is the paddock, because the Church creates the boundaries and frameworks within which we can come to know and understand God. Without the Church, travelling around the wilderness all alone and unguided, we would be lost and unable to ever find the Shepherd or gain comfort and protection from the flock.


So, I guess from that analogy we can understand that God is the Good Shepherd, we are the sheep, and the paddock is the Church. So, if we follow through with this analogy, what is the sheep dog?


Well, the sheep dog is the most obvious part of the story – because the sheep dog is pain and suffering. Without the sheep dog, the Shepherd will not as effectively steer us in the direction in which we are required to go so that we will be safe! And so, He allows a little suffering – or maybe a lot – because without the sheep dog of pain nipping at our heels, we will walk away from the safety of the flock and the security of the Church and wander away and be lost...


For those of you who follow my blog, you will be aware that I have recently been diagnosed with a medical condition, the treatment of which will dramatically change many of my future plans. The last time my life-plans took a nose-dive like this was when my fourth child died before he was ever born. When that happened, I felt entirely completely and utterly alone. This time – though nobody has died – the experience is still shocking and completely final for me. And yet, this time I am the sheep who was lost and now is found. This time I am surrounded by a flock and safe within the paddock. For the Good Shepherd went out to find His lost sheep and carried it home in His Holy Arms – even despite the mess and the smell and the residue that I left on His Holy Hands.


I was listening to a Podcast by Scott Hahn, called “The Grace of Conversion” and in it Hahn said, “Saint Paul’s encounter with the risen Lord didn’t just change his life, it changed the world—and it can change us, too, if we ask for the grace of conversion.”


And that Grace of Conversion has made all the difference between one terrible experience and the next… Because though I am weak, He is strong! And His strength sustains me always…


For with prayer, I stand on Holy Ground where everything is clear. Here. At the Foot of the Cross.

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