It’s Good Shepherd Sunday! The 4th Sunday of Easter is always “Good Shepherd Sunday.” No matter what cycle of scripture readings we are in, they will all speak of Jesus and shepherding on the 4th Sunday of Easter. And today we also celebrate Mother’s Day!
One of the favorite images of the early Christians was Jesus carrying a lamb over his shoulders. Throughout the scriptures Jesus speaks of Himself as a good shepherd – watching over His flock, going after the lost sheep, referring to a flock not of His own but that He needs to shepherd them as well. Often times, appropriately, vocations to the priesthood is preached on Good Shepherd Sunday. But this year, since Good Shepherd Sunday falls on Mother’s Day, I got to thinking about how the image of the good shepherd could be applied to women, especially mothers.
Did you even know there were female shepherds in Jesus’ day? In ancient Israel it was not unusual that when a girl was eight to ten years old, she began leading the family herd out to nearby pasture. At the end of the day, the shepherdess brought her sheep back to the safety of home. Tend- ing the family herd was reserved primarily for girls, and they continued this work until married at age fifteen or sixteen. It was the male members of the family who were more nomadic and moved the herds to distant fields. As a young shepherdess, Rachel met Jacob when she came to water her sheep (Genesis 29:9) Moses’s wife Zipporah was one of seven daughters who tended their father’s sheep (Exodus 2:16-21). Besides pasturing the flocks, watering and watching them, tending minor injuries and sheltering them at night, a shepherdess also had the responsibility of spinning. Equipped with her drop spindle and a bundle of wool, she could spin yarn during her hours in the field – a sort of multi-tasking that is required of mothers today!
And so, I think we can apply the image of a good shepherd to our mom’s and those women in our lives who have been a shepherdess to us in various ways. They protect us, nurture us, and keep us close to home, sheltering us from our fears when we were young. They tended to our minor injuries, kissed and put a band aid on our little cuts. And often today, they tend to more complex medical challenges that many children face. Then later in life they listen to the injuries of our broken hearts when as teenager’s we didn’t make the team or experienced our first break-up with a girl or boy friend or didn’t get accepted to the college we wanted to attend. They were there with consoling words, hopeful words, wise words, reassuring words, and a hug. Our mom’s still always have a watchful eye out for us and our wellbeing – no matter how old we become!
Today we thank our mom’s and other women in our life who have in- deed been a good shepherdess to us! Let us ask our Father in heaven to bless them and watch over them!
Happy Mother’s Day!