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Remember your first car? When I turned 16 my parents handed down to me a 1982, 5 speed, 4 cylinder, brown Honda Accord. It wasn’t exactly a beater, but it wasn’t exactly a hotrod either. As much as it wasn’t the coolest or nicest car in the student parking lot, I loved that car.
My friends and I named it “The Beast,” mostly because it wasn’t a beast at all. This car was great because it got me from point A to point B every time. Until, of course, it didn’t and stranded me an hour from home with my high school crush in the front seat. That car was good to me until the very end.
I wouldn’t let anyone else drive it or wash it or even put gas in it (they could pay for gas, of course) because this car was mine and I wanted to take the absolute best care of it.
In our Gospel this weekend we hear about a good shepherd who cares for his flock. But we also hear about a “hired man,” who runs at the first sign of danger. The good shepherd cares for his sheep because he is close to them and they are his. The sheep literally belong to him. The hired man is only in it for the money and when his life is in danger it isn’t worth it.
Jesus is the good shepherd; he says so. He explains that he is willing to lay down his life for his sheep, because they are his flock. They know him well. They recognize his voice. They are close to him and he is close to them.
I loved my car, not because of anything special it did, but because it was mine. My car didn’t earn my affection. The same for the sheep – they don’t do anything to earn the shepherd’s love and care. No, the shepherd loves them because they are his. The shepherd loves them because of “who” the shepherd is not “how” the sheep are.
We can’t earn God’s love for us. None of us deserve the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. And every single one of us belong to Jesus the Good Shepherd.
In the second reading, Paul reminds us that we are God’s beloved children. God delights in us and cares for us because we belong to him. When we were baptized we were baptized to become sons and daughters of God. God loves us because we are his children. God loves us because he is good.
What do you care about? Make whatever you take great care in doing into a prayer. If you are extra careful at doing the dishes, make each dish washed a prayer. If you are an excellent cook, say a prayer for each ingredient or step of a recipe. If you are super intense tooth brusher, say a few Hail Marys while you brush. While you do this, remember that God took infinitely more care in creating and loving you.