We read a lot about what it means to be a good shepherd in terms of providing the right sort of pastoral care for people in the Church. There is very little written concerning the other half of that dialogue or relationship. What does it mean to be a good sheep for the shepherd? One of the most soul-destroying things that can happen to a shepherd is for him to pour out his heart and soul in caring for his flock and then they ignore him or take him for granted. If we want good pastors for the flock, then we will also need to provide good flocks for the pastors!

The disciples of Jesus show us one aspect of being a good follower. They draw aside and spend time with Jesus to be taught and instructed in the ways of the Gospel. They are willing students of the spiritual life. Can we say the same about ourselves? Even the crowd in today’s Gospel demonstrates their willingness to be taught and their desire to grow in faith by pursuing Jesus after He leaves them. Do we have the same level of desire and perseverance as they do?

Each of us has to make the necessary decisions to commit ourselves to being shepherded in the way of the Gospel. This means being faithful to prayer and reading the Scriptures as well as being committed to our ongoing intellectual formation regarding our lives of faith. This in turn means making the requisite effort to find places where we can be taught the teachings of the Church and not just waiting for everything to come to us! God helps those who help themselves is an important principle when it comes to being a good disciple. There is a certain point to which we have to take responsibility for our own formation.

Another important point to remember is to pray regularly for the shepherds of the Church. They certainly need our prayers, not because they are necessarily any worse sinners than we may be, but simply because of the weight of responsibility that falls to them. It is our duty and responsibility to pray for them regularly and to support them in whatever way that we can. Just as we want them to be around for us when we are struggling or need some sort of help, they too require our support.

Finally, it is equally important to ensure that both shepherd and sheep have a good balance between work, rest and relaxation. We are all human beings and we all get tired and need time to be rejuvenated and refreshed. Let us not neglect this essential aspect of our humanity and so be strengthened to return to work and mission when our time of rest is over.

How faithful am I to allowing myself to be discipled in the truths of the Gospel? Do I listen to the shepherds that God places in my life?

Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd who cares for His sheep. Help me to listen carefully to your voice and to be obedient to it. Grant me the grace to be faithful to prayer and reading the Scriptures as well as learning from the shepherds you have given me in the Church.