I am the good shepherd. I know my sheep and my sheep know me. (John 10:14)
Jesus not only claims he knows his sheep but that we, his sheep, know him. Do we really? St. Bernard of Clairvaux once said that, in the spiritual life, self-knowledge is of the utmost importance. The reason for this is that self- knowledge gives us humility. There is nothing more effective, more adapted to the acquiring of humility than to find out the truth about ourselves. This, in turn, becomes the durable foundation on which we can build our relationships with others and ourselves. How can we know others if we don’t know ourselves? Without humility, the spiritual edifice has no hope of standing. As Jesus told us, we must lose our lives in order to discover our real selves (Matthew 16:25).
Jesus, our true shepherd, identified Himself with us so much that we can say we are shepherds of ourselves as well. Do we not become other Christs by our baptism? Does He not dwell within us for the purpose of being the dominating influence in our lives? Is He that dominating influence? Jesus tells us that, unlike the hired hand who runs away and leaves the sheep at the first sign of danger, He lays down His life for His sheep. As shepherds of ourselves, what do we do? Instead of staying under the influence of Jesus, do we stray away from it because, like the hired hand, we work only for “pay,” that is, looking good in the eyes of others or serving other ego-motivated compulsions? When the danger of wolves appear–that is, our fears and prejudices–do we run away instead of facing our inner demons?
Jesus, my shepherd, lead me along the right path!
—Sister Mary E. Penrose, OSB
Sister Mary E Penrose is a Sister of St. Scholastica Monastery in Duluth, Minnesota. She edits readings for the liturgical Hours and writes reflections for the Community. And she is a tutor for the African Sisters attending The College of St. Scholastica. She was editor of a journal, Spirit & Life, for 18 years.