In certain European countries sheep are raised principally for their meat; in ancient Israel they were raised above all for wool and milk. For this reason they remained for many years in the company of the shepherd, who knew the character of each one and gave them affectionate names. Jesus knew shepherds and had much sympathy for them.
To the hired hand, the sheep are merely a commodity, to be watched over only so they can provide a source of revenue. The sheep are far more than a responsibility to the good shepherd, who is also their owner. They are the object of the shepherd’s love and concern. For Jesus, the shepherd is the means to ensure the end: the well-being of the flock. Sheep are first, shepherds last.
As we commemorate the World Day of Prayer for Vocations on this Good Shepherd Sunday, Jesus reminds us that there must be no exclusiveness on the part of the religious leader. Only love can draw the circle that includes everyone. Today we call to mind everyone over whom we are called to exercise authority: our children, elderly parents, co-workers and colleagues, parishioners, people who ask us for help throughout the week, and people who depend on us for their material and spiritual needs. Whatever title we bear, the rod and staff we carry must be symbols not of oppression but of dedication and love.
— Thomas Rosica
Psalm 118:1, 8–9, 21–23, 26, 28, 29
1 John 3:1–2