By Father Danny Ferrandiz
For the Umatuna Si Yu’os
Normally, when we talk about shepherds, we only refer to a work that men do. But no. In biblical times, shepherding was not only confined to men. Women shepherds were called “shepherdess”. In ancient Israel, women as young as 8 or 10 years old were trained to lead the family herd to a grassy pasture. At sunset, they brought the animals back to their home where they were housed in a stone-walled cage attached to their houses.
In the Bible, we have examples of young shepherdess like Rachel who waters her sheep (Gen. 29:9). The book of Exodus also mentions the daughters of Jethro watering their father’s sheep and goats. These women are described as pasturing the flocks; feeding and watering them; watching and attending to their injuries and making sure they get sheltered at night time. Though the work of the shepherdess is less challenging than a male shepherd, it prepares her for marriage and independence from her family. It develops her sense of purpose and responsibility. It builds her strength and health and instills in her mind an appreciation for quiet companionship.
Looking at these descriptions of the works of the women shepherds, we can draw a beautiful image of God that mothers can imitate as shepherdess to their flocks.
Psalm 23 describes this image of God as a Good Shepherd which beautifully presents the feminine side of God. It presents us with a way to explore our relationship with Him in a motherly way, something that seems to fade when we look at God only as a God that exudes masculinity and toughness. Psalm 23 talks about a God who is a source of guidance and tenderness like a caring mother who prepares a meal for her children; someone who gives comforts when we are afraid and anxious and someone who shows unconditional love and sacrifices even laying down his life.
These are all images that mothers can relate with. As a mother shepherding her flock, she needs her flock to hear her voice so they can follow and stay close to her. When Jesus says, “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me,” this is the image he has in mind. This too is the image of a mother to her children. A mother who walks by their side; a mother who is not distant but nurturing. But does this ring true to you as a mother?
Parenting is hard. Parents do not only guide, protect and determine what’s best for their children but they see to it that the legacy they leave them is worth remembering. We need to be confident not to be defeated by the cultural influences that surround our children. We need to have faith in God and pass this faith on to them.
Why? Because our children will be tempted to fail. No matter how hard we trained them in wisdom and goodness they will be tempted to fall. But if their faith is anchored on a home that nurtured this faith, they will learn to rise and become confident in their faith. We may not see any fruit now, but the reward will come in due time. That’s why we need endurance and perseverance to do what God expects from us. One of the most painful parts of purgatory (hopefully, we get there) is finding out how much good we did not do but could have done if only we persevered.
Remember, there are no perfect mothers. God designs that mothers partner with Him in his eternal work as a shepherd and shepherdess of each family.
The world may neither applaud nor recognize you for the things you do for your children. Your children may not even thank you for preparing food for them; driving them to school or talking to them in the wee hours of the morning. And until they are trained to be grateful, your works will remain thankless. But as we set aside our own selfish desires and glorify God by joyfully serving our children, we are pursuing true greatness according to the Bible. Let us do our shepherding with our flock with tenderness, affection, and with a smile.
Invitation: Those interested in joining our November, 2019 Holy Land-Biblical Turkey Pilgrimage can contact Mario Celis at 788-1628 or me, Fr. Danny at 797-9968).)