The sheep hears the voice of the shepherd because they experience his genuine love (“… as I have loved you… a man lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:12-13). Knowing well that the shepherd would risk his life for their safety, they will abandon themselves to his care. The ‘hireling’ instead “comes only to steal, kill and destroy… sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees… cares nothing for the sheep” (10:12-13). The sheep in such hands is agitated, insecure and restless.
The difference between the two is their orientation: for the first the ‘other’ is the object of love. He places the wellbeing of the other before his own and for whose sake he is willing to do everything possible and even to die. While for the thief or the hireling the other is a means for his own benefit.
We who are called to be the Lord’s ministers in imitation of the ‘good shepherd’, also find within us the attitudes of the hireling. Our shutting down, our struggles to manage interpersonal relations, issues of intimacy and sexuality, authority and power etc. are often the consequence of our psychological fragility. Because of this inner reality, like the hireling, we end up seeking and working for self-glory, self-protection and security rather than working for the safety and protection of the sheep. This running after ‘self-fulfillment’ and the apparent good leaves us with emptiness, loneliness, sadness, hurts etc. we find ourselves journeying in the opposite direction of desired goal.
The woundedness hinders us to perceive, understand and to respond to the sheep adequately with genuine love. Instead of being and behaving like the ‘good shepherd’, we end up behaving like the ‘thief’. We come to ‘give’, but end up being ‘receivers’. Thus, we defeat our purpose and the goal of life: Lord’s ministers after his heart.
If we want to be of service to others, also to those who have been deeply wounded through any kind of abuse, we have to endeavor in our own journey towards “healing and renewal” (cf. Gregorian Symposium 2012). The journey requires perseverance and commitment, patience and courage to see and work on the inner dramatic realities: of insecurities, betrayal of trust, emotional and relational abuses, low self-esteem, histories of interpersonal trauma, mild depression etc. In the inward journey, we rediscover the true treasure: ‘the image of God’ loved and cared by God, who gave the best he had and all that he had. This inward turning moves us outward to be effective ministers and agents of transformation. This healing turns our wounds into graces, enabling us to be at the service of others like the ‘good Samaritan’ to care and heal the wounds of others (Lk 10:25-37).