So I know I’m a week late but I’m here to talk about SHEEP.
I can’t remember where I learned this or from whom — but sheep aren’t really a lot like what we think they are…
…more dirty than white (like not so much with the Mary had a little lamb…)
…more nervous than calm…
…more smart than dumb…
I will treat the second 2 elements of the 3.
Sheep are actually pretty smart. Well…more clever and rational than smart. And maybe…like us…a little bit lazy. Sheep are pack animals…they long to be part of the community…but they have sort of bad vision…partially based on the placement of their eyes. So — they make up for this by just following the tail/behind of the sheep in front of them as they travel. Not necessarily in a straight line — although that does happen — but watch them…they are often clumped up together…with each sheep following 1 other sheep and so on. And — there is 1 sheep called the Head — who follows the shepherd. A wise shepherd — like Jesus — learns the look, call, and gait of one sheep — and once that one follows him — all the rest follow the sheep in front of them.
Sounds a little like charisms, gifts, evangelization and discipleship, eh?
And then our guest homilist this weekend mentioned that he learned in seminary that shepherds actually lay down in front of the pen, or the area where the sheep are enclosed or sleeping. To keep them in. And to keep wolves out. I love that image of laying down one’s life for the sheep.
AND THEN…also of interest…despite kind of bad vision — sheep apparently can hear and process pretty specific sounds. They learn the bleat — or call — or cry of their own baby lambs — and they instinctively recognize it when one has wandered too far away. To know one’s voice by heart. That’s pretty big.
DUDE. JUST LIKE GOD. JUST LIKE JESUS.
Sheep/bovines have a unique element in their nervous system that causes almost electric panic and paralysis when they realize they have been separated from the fold. They fall on the ground motionless and just cry until someone comes to get them.
“Those sheep are pretty smart,” I remember thinking, when I first heard this new information. There were no sheep where I grew up. So any information about sheep would be new information. “They just hang out and wait to be rescued when they get lost. Let someone else do the work. Fly under the radar. Well played, sheep.”
But then the storyteller noted that laying on the ground…throwing a loud tantrum…is not always going to get the attention of the Good Guys.
This is exactly how sheep get eaten. One one hand — they are trying to signal their mother or theshepherd (YO! The Church…Mary Our Mother…or Jesus the Good Shepherd…WUT?!)…but on the other hand…all that whiny bleaty racket could also attract…the enemy.
And a clever enemy will know if it waits long enough…either the rest of the pack will come and place themselves also at risk of being eaten — or they will be smart enough not to come — and that sheep will be dinner on its own.
This is what Evil does. It tries to separate me from the pack.
It takes away my resources.
It makes me believe I am alone.
It sends me into panic and noisy whining.
It paralyzes me. Panics me.
It makes me believe I am really really really alone.
And then…all it has to do is wait me out.
BOO. LAME. I’m LAME.
This is what we do, when it comes to sin, isn’t it?
And we have plenty of alternative options:
Stay in community.
Pick a good sheep to follow and trust it.
Stay near the front where the Head sheep is.
Make friends with the Head sheep
Become the Head sheep.
Stay close to the shepherd.
Trust the shepherd and your community if you get lost.
Don’t get lost.
Don’t wander away.
If I find myself lost — don’t make a bunch of noise.
Don’t stay in that place I got lost in. Don’t stand still. RUN.
Jesus the Good Shepherd is a little like Wesley from the Princess Bride. Only better.
He will always come for me.
Believing in True Love is laying down one’s life for the sheep. Or friends. Or beloved.
Being Catholic is awesome. #NotSoBAAAAAAAAdAfterAll