I have two younger brothers, Kevin and Brian. As an oldest brother, it has been a joy for me to watch and reflect on how they have grown into the fine men that they are, but when they we younger it was especially fun to see Brian idolize Kevin. Kevin is six years older than Brian, but Brian always wanted to do what Kevin and his friends were doing. This is typical "little brother" behavior. Kevin was playing baseball; Brian wanted to play. Kevin and his friends traded baseball cards; Brian wanted to as well. They had a comic book club; Brian wanted to belong. In fact, once, Kevin and his friends established a rule to keep Brian out. He had to draw the "Batman" logo to get in. I recall little Brian crying because of this prohibition, and my mother sat him down and drew the logo herself. Kev and his friends had to let him in.
The relationship between brothers is great - a love/hate relationship that, if done right, can lead to great friendship in adulthood (as it has with my brothers and me).
During this past week, I watched like all of you the events in Boston and struggled to make sense of them. As the days went on and we learned more about the suspects, we found out that they, too, we brothers. I am still struck by the grainy, jerky surveillance footage of the older brother walking through the crowd, followed closely by his little brother. In light of this weekend's Gospel, it was a dark parallel to the Shepherd image.
I don't doubt that these brothers loved each other - that there was a tender and committed affection between them, just like my brothers. Without judging their motives, I can totally understand the younger brother's desire to follow his big brother. Unfortunately, he chose a poor shepherd.
That leads me to a question, especially considering this weekend of "Good Shepherd Sunday." Who is your shepherd?
Now, Scripture is full of tender images of shepherds and sheep as a metaphor of God and His guidance of His People. Jesus is the Good Shepherd, who "knows his sheep." "My sheep hear my voice," He says today, "and they follow me." We can dutifully quote the 23rd Psalm and say, "The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want..." and in our Psalm response today we declare, "We are His people, the sheep of His flock."
However, that is almost rote for us. Practically speaking, who is your shepherd?
The shepherd decides when the sheep will get up and go out. He decides where they will graze and where they will not. He keeps them together, and at the end of the day, he decides when they will return home.
What drives us? What decides what we will do? How we act? How we speak? With whom we relate? Is it fashion? Sports? Music? TV? Video games? Restaurants? Fame? Fortune? Comfort?
There are so many shepherds out there vying for our loyalty. So many shepherd, especially, looking for our young people's love - and they follow. We must pray for them; pray for our youth, that they may hear - be able to hear - the voice of the one Shepherd who actually promises life, and life in abundance. The other shepherds might fill a void for a while, but they don't love their sheep.
The young, idealistic bomber in Boston chose his shepherd. He chose poorly, and many people - including himself - have been hurt. That is not life in abundance.
We pray that we - our families, friends, youth and neighbors - may be able to hear the voice of the true Shepherd who leads us to the Father - to that fullness of life that sets us in a pasture of peace.