"I am the good shepherd. I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. And I lay down my life for the sheep. " (John 10:14-15)
Yesterday was Good Shepherd Sunday and we heard those words, spoken by Jesus, read from the pulpit. How well they fit St. Damien also! He was the shepherd who loved his flock, who cared for and identified with them so well that eventually he became as they were and did lay his own life down. "I make myself a leper with the lepers to gain all to Jesus Christ", he said.
When night falls, a shepherd gathers all the sheep into the sheephold to keep them safe - usually a cave or walled off area - and often he slept with them to protect them from thieves, bad weather or wild animals. Fr. Damien lived in a colony walled off on one side by steep, jagged cliffs and surrounded by water on three sides - a sheephold of sorts where he, too, slept among his flock to care for them. He came, as Christ did, "that they may have life and have it abundantly." (John 10:10)
Abundant life in Christ can be had if we recognize and follow His voice, letting go of our own agendas and trusting that God calls us each by name. (John 10:4) He knows us and treats us as individuals. Because He knows each of us intimately, He has a plan for our lives which is specific to our nature, our personality and our gifts, just as He did for Fr. Damien. It is when we ignore His voice and take our own route that we become confused by other voices in the world. If we stay rooted in scripture, prayer, and the sacraments, His voice will be the only one we hear. Let us shut out the noise of the world so Christ's voice will become more apparent to us day by day.
St. Damien of Molokai, pray for us!