The 23rd Psalm is one of the most familiar and well-loved psalms of all 150 psalms. It is often prayed at funerals and in times of trouble. In today’s liturgy, it serves as a connection between Jeremiah’s challenge to the leaders of his day and Jesus who is the Good Shepherd filled with pity for the sheep.
In Biblical times, shepherds were not the most respected members of society. Often, because they were out in the fields with the flocks, they were not as observant of the Sabbath laws. It was hard work with little pay, they were working with animals that were not the smartest knives in the drawer. The sheep needed the shepherd to keep them out of trouble and wandering away. He made sure the sheep had a good place to graze and water to drink
Yet, it is this image that is used to describe the King of Israel. Jesus uses to describe himself. Our Shepherd doesn’t worry about public opinion about who is worth being saved. Our Shepherd is willing to work hard for us because he loves usâ€¦. he doesn’t count the cost. Just look at the Cross. Our Shepherd comes looking for us when we stray or get lost. He provides for all our needs, even when we don’t know what we need. God even forces us to rest: Keep holy the Sabbath. We need to remember this today.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.
Our society rewards us when we over work; yet, the number of people, especially our young people, dealing with stress related issues is increasing. Our Shepherd challenges us to stop and see the beauty around us; the beauty of the world is his gift to us.
Even in the darkest and scariest of times, he is there. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage.
We never need to be afraid; God is always with us.
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows
Our Shepherd invites us by name to his table; even if others don’t feel we are welcome. He spreads a table of love, acceptance, and joy; he honors us with this invitation. Think of it: it is an honor to be here. To be here at the heavenly table that God spreads before us is not earned or because we are a certain race or class, etc.: God invites all to this table. Each of us here is special in the sight of God. What a great place to linger; who would want to leave early? The host honors us with the invitation; why would we not want to stay with the other guests?
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.
God calls us to live our lives as fully as we can here on earth and to live fully with him in the pasture of heaven. To live fully here is to live a life dedicated to God and His Gospel. To live fully is to put God before all else. To live fully is to open up our hearts and lives to our Shepherd who is intimately involved in our lives. To live fully here is to keep focused on the pastures of heaven promised to all.
May our Shepherd touch your heart this week. May He lead you to a place of rest and peace. May God touch your hearts to realize the honor of being invited here to His table And may He give you the grace to live fully here and in the meadows of heaven.