Thirty years ago, during a vacation in Morocco, I had an encounter that impacted my understanding of today’s Gospel. Traveling through the country side our motor coach came to a standstill. A large flock of about thirty sheep were scattered throughout the road. Even as the driver and a few passengers attempted to maneuver the sheep across the road it was to no avail.
After a period of time, a young man arrived and used his staff and voice to direct the sheep out of the roadway. It was then that the Scripture quote “My sheep know my voice and they answer” took on a new meaning.
I am a city girl, raised in an urban community. Sheep, shepherds and pastures are not a component of my social location. This encounter with a flock of sheep was a novel experience. It impressed me that these sheep would not move until they heard the voice of their shepherd! It was only at his beck and call, that the sheep began to move, following their shepherd. It was to his voice, his voice only that the sheep responded.
This experience impacted my understanding of the dynamic relationship that exists between sheep and their shepherd. When the authentic shepherd calls- the sheep will follow. What was it that influenced the sheep to respond to the beck and call of their shepherd’s voice? These are the very questions that are asked even today. Why do these people follow this Jesus Christ of Nazareth?
This Jesus who was considered a Black Sheep of the fold. His own community looked down upon him. He was seen as a “disfavored and disreputable member of the group.” He was rejected among men, an outcast.
Yet this Jesus, He became the cornerstone the foundational support, upon which all of our brokenness is restored. The healing of our mind-body-spirit depends on the tendering care and attentive nurturing of this Jesus, the Good Shepherd. This shepherd who knew the first-hand experience of being a lamb; a sheep led to the slaughter. He knew the reality of being in the grip, in the midst, of those who did not care or treat the people in need with tender mercies.
The Good Shepherd knows all about our troubles because He has experienced them. His role as shepherd is perfected in the experience of knowing first-hand what his sheep are experiencing. It is in the knowing, the experiential knowing that He is able to provide for us, his sheep. Provide for our every need.
The shepherd knew what it was like to be despised, he understood the suffering of being an outcast, of being told you are not good enough. It is because of his very own experience, that he is able to pastor and shepherd and lead us through the dark valleys in our human existence. He is our healing grace. He is the Merciful Shepherd who heals the brokenness, that cripples our mind-body-spirit. It is His enduring mercy that calls us into the fold and makes us all God’s children. He calls us out of the depths of despair, of being cast aside by the world.
It is in His voice (in His powerful name) that we must trust. We must listen for the voice that calls us- so that we are not scattered anymore and not left vulnerable to the wolf that divides, through sexism, racism and classism. We are called to be one in the Lord, daughters and sons of the one God, the one-fold.
The first reading tells us about the healing of the cripple. The Book of Acts 3 and 4 provides us with the key to the healing. It is not a mere coincidence that the healing took place at the 3 pm hour, the hour of prayer and the hour of mercy. The cripple was situated at the right time and at the right place. He was seated at the location of the Temple referred to as the Beautiful Gate, the Gate of Mercy.
Mercy Mercy Mercy- now I may not know much about sheep but as a nurse- a healer, a pastoral care theologian, I have heard the call of the Lord to heal and tend to his sheep in mind-body-spirit. As with St. Peter, the healing imparted from our healing hands, is only activated by the Holy Spirit through the Power given to us in Christ Jesus. That power to heal and be healed is a gift rooted in faith and trust in the powerful Name of Jesus. Our ultimate healing being- Our salvation and redemption.
Mercy Mercy Mercy- Divine Mercy is the Gate that our Shepherd leads all of us through to heal our inequities. That Beautiful Gate of Mercy- Psalm 118:20 tells us “This is the gate of the Lord only the righteous can come in” those who call on the Name of the Lord. The Psalm reveals that there is mercy and power in the name of Jesus. Yes, that sweet, sweet name above every other name. Yes, that Name Jesus imparts Mercy, that Name Jesus imparts Grace, that Name Jesus imparts Healing.
There is Power in the Name of Jesus. It is time for the church to use the Power of the Name of Jesus to activate the healing, tender the care and mend the brokenness of this world. Let us call on the Name of Jesus to gather our scattered flock. Amen.
Valerie D. Lewis-Mosley, OPA
Valerie is an alumna of Boston College School of Nursing (BSN 1979), Seton Hall University School of Law (MSJ - Health Law 2006), Seton Hall University School of Theology – Immaculate Conception Seminary (MAPM -Christian Spirituality/Spiritual Direction 2011), and Drew Theological School (Doctor of Ministry - Practicing Healing Mind Body Spirit 2015). Valerie has graduate studies in Nursing Leadership from New York University. She is also a graduate of Xavier University of Louisiana-Institute for Black Catholic Studies (2002) with a certification as a Master Catechist in the Catholic Church. She also has doctrinal certification from the Archdiocese of Newark where she has served in ministry for over thirty years.
She is the Director of Religious Education at the Church of Christ the King - Jersey City, New Jersey, a historical Black Catholic Parish an Apostolate for Evangelization in the African American community. She serves in various capacities across the nation as a mentor to youth and adults; evangelist, retreat leader and revivalist and public speaker, life coach and Spiritual Director. Catechesis to children and youth and women’s spirituality and empowerment are a major component of her ministry as a pastoral associate. She is an Adjunct Professor in the Department of Theology at Caldwell University, Caldwell, New Jersey and she is a member of the Black Catholic Theological Symposium. She belongs to various International Honor Societies and is a Silver Life member of the NAACP.
She is retired from clinical practice at the New York Hospital-Weill Cornell University Medical Center. Her specialty area was in High Risk/Tertiary Care Obstetrics where she served as the Senior Staff Clinical Nurse, Unit Preceptor, and Quality Assurance Committee Representative. She was also an interim administrative Nurse Recruiter.
Valerie is an Extraordinary Minister of Holy Communion for the sick and infirm. She serves as a minister on the Pre-Cana team preparing couples for the Sacrament of Matrimony.
She serves the Church as a Lay Associate Order of Preachers (OPA) of the Sisters of St. Dominic of Caldwell, New Jersey. It is her mission “To Praise, To Bless, To Preach” the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Her life models the spirituality of the Dominican and Jesuit charism. Black Catholic spirituality and Catholic Social Justice Teaching are premiere in her use of culture and faith to authentically evangelize.