Here I am, send me!
On the fourth Sunday of Easter (April 26), also known as Good Shepherd Sunday, we hear Jesus describe a person whose life is totally dedicated to the essential needs of others. It is not a matter of a job with a paycheck, but rather a relationship of familiarity, care, and protection. Jesus embodies this description, as does a parent, a teacher, a religious Sister or Brother, a social worker, a doctor, an artisan, a priest, or a social worker.
As the Good Shepherd, Jesus prays for the time when there will be “one flock, one shepherd.” Until such time, Jesus calls his followers to tend the flock in their care. Fr. Leo John Dehon, founder of the Priests of the Sacred Heart, meditates on this call. In his book, The Retreat with the Sacred Heart, Fr. Dehon imagines Jesus speaking directly to his followers, saying, “Look, my children are hungry for the word of God and the sacraments. Do you not have pity on them?
“The works of the apostolate and of teaching require people of good will. The harvest is great; the workers are few. Look at the discord in society. Who will stand between the rich and the poor, to preach to both of them their duties in justice and charity? You see how the abuses of one side provoke the revolt of the other; you hear the threatening demands of envy. More apostles of justice and peace are needed.
“Do you not want to lend your hand in the work of salvation? Will you remain deaf to my call? If you love me, feed my lambs. They have no shepherd, they are hungry and thirsty; lead them to green pastures. Whatever you do for the least of them, I consider it done to me. The times are urgent: wolves are devouring the lambs, foxes are ravaging the harvest, my people are oppressed, and souls are falling away like leaves from a tree. Who will rise up to help me and work with me?”
Fr. Dehon concludes his meditation with what he considers the only appropriate response from a Christian. “Good Master, tell me what you want me to do. My heart is ready, Lord; my heart is ready. What do you want me to do? To what sort of works should I devote myself? Speak, Lord, you little servant is listening to you. Here I am, send me where you will.”