Be Sheepish

Sheep, to many Americans, are weak, subservient, and dim-witted creatures. We say “to follow like sheep” when describing unthinking, spineless loyalty. To look “sheepish,” is to look guilty. That’s why when Jesus refers to his followers as sheep, we’re not always sure how to respond.

Jesus and his contemporaries, however, held sheep in high esteem. Sheep were considered honorable and noble animals, because they suffer in silence and are obedient to their shepherds. Some were kept as household pets, and were fed by hand. Ownership of sheep was a sign of wealth. They were offered in sacrifice, not because they were worthless, but because they were so valuable. Jesus himself was called the “lamb of God.”

By calling us sheep, then, Jesus isn’t putting us down. Instead, he’s speaking of how precious we are to him; it’s a reflection of his love. In today’s gospel, he insists that we, his sheep, are the Father’s gift to him. We’re so valuable, that no one can snatch us out of his hand; we’re so treasured, that he gives us eternal life, to be with him forever.

Readings for today’s Mass:

Photo credit: A Roger Davies via Creative Commons

4 Replies to “Be Sheepish”

  1. Good article Father. I think it very strange that the first artificially cloned animal in the world was a sheep, Dolly. Satan is the great imitator of God in his own negative way, and I think he was making a statement with Dolly that cloning is better than the way God created sheep.

    And which scientist or doctor in college doesn’t “blindly follow” his professors if they indeed wish to graduate. It is no sin to follow people of ideologies that are true and good. I think satan wants us all to be “freethinkers”, because in most cases they always wind up as “me-thinkers, so that whatever crazy idea pops into our heads has to be right! Imagine if everyone on the freeway was a “freethinker, making up their own traffic laws and vehicle speeds as they go along! it would be chaos, which is EXACTLY what satan wants.

    Love your blog – Peace – Ray

  2. The Jewish people of the biblical periods weren’t the only people who valued sheep. Across the steppes of Europe and Asia sheep were highly prized by the nomadic herdsmen. Riding skills were important for herding their domestic animals to “greener pastures” – for travelling the vast distances – defending the yurts from maurauders and the younger the members of the tribes learned, the better their skills tended to be.
    Before the boys were old enough to start training in horsemanship they were usually placed on the back of a docile sheep where they could find tufts of hair everywhere available to grasp onto. As the sheep wandered and grazed the young lads gained an early familiarization with riding.
    And, as for being sheepish, I don’t think that the members of the hordes of the steppes would be used as examples of the negative (or docile) connotations of the term “sheep like” even if the first teachers of most nomadic cavalry were, indeed, sheep.

Comments are closed.