In Psalm 23, David, the shepherd-king, sang with tender assurance of the true King-Shepherd: God his Lord. What he learned tending his father's flock readied his heart to receive what the great Shepherd would bestow upon him and upon His people. David knew what crook and staff meant to lost and wandering sheep. He had led anxious, weary sheep beside still waters. He could understand, then, how God, King and Shepherd, took care of His people, the sheep of His flock.

I am the Good Shepherd, Jesus, the new David, declared. Those who heard Him found in Him the fulfillment of Psalm 23. They saw Him who, moved with compassion for [the crowd] because they were like sheep without a shepherd, taught them and miraculously fed them. (cf. Mark 6:34) On the night of the Last Supper, the apostles partook of the banquet [He] prepared in the sight of [His] foes. On Pentecost, in the same upper room, He anointed [them] with the oil of gladness which is the Holy Spirit.

The apostles' love for this Good Shepherd and His psalm was passed on to the first generations of Christ-followers. Even non-Jewish converts sensed that Psalm 23 spoke directly to their deepest needs: Even though I walk in the valley of death no evil would Ifear... The true shepherd is one who knows even the path that passes through the valley of death....He Himself has walked this path, He has conquered death and He has returned to accompany us now.... The realization that there is One who even in death accompanies me, and with His crook and His staff comforts me, so that Ifear no evil — this was the new "hope " that arose over the life of believers. (Pope Benedict XVI, Spe Salvi, 6)

St. Bonaventure notes that when St. Francis set out to meet the Sultan, he confidently chanted that prophetic verse: Even if I should walk in the midst of the valley of death, no evil would I fear because You are with me. (MAJOR LEGEND, chapter 9) And God was with the Little Poor Man as he braved the dangers of crossing enemy lines en route to his encounter with the Sultan — a meeting so significant that we still recall it 800 years later!

But St. Francis wants us to look even deeper into this beloved Psalm. Let all of us consider the Good Shepherd who bore the suffering of the Cross to save His sheep. The Lord's sheep followed Him in tribulation and persecution, in shame and hunger, in weakness and temptation, and in other ways; and for these things they received eternal life from the Lord. (ADMONITION 6)

The Seraphic Father invites us to be among the Lord's sheep who in faith consider the Good Shepherd, follow Him bravely and experience the consolation of sharing in His redemptive work. Thus, we are even better prepared to be among those who forever dwell where the Lamb in the midst of the throne will be their Shepherd, and He will guide them to springs of living water, and God will wipe away every tear from their eyes. (Revelation 7:17)




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Psalm 23

 

 

 

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green
are the pastures
where He gives me repose.

Near restful waters

He leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit.

He guides me
along the right path;

He is true to His Name.
If should walk
in the valley of death,
no evil would I fear.
You are there
with Your crook
and Your staff;
with these

You give me comfort.
You have prepared
a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.

My head

You have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.

Surely goodness and kindness
shall follow me
all the days of my life.

In the Lord's own house
shall I dwell forever and ever.

 

Consider the Good Shepherd

PART 36