When I was going through RCIA I kept hearing stories of the lost sheep, and how Jesus is the Good Shepherd. I kept wondering why did God always talk about shepherds and sheep? What was God’s deal with them?
While Father Jonathan was talking to the kids about their sacraments and why they are important, he read them the parable of the lost sheep. He explained to them that it was a story of God’s love for us. Father Jonathan explained that sheep are not the smartest animals. They just wander off and get eaten by wolves, but they are smart enough to recognize and follow the sound of their shepherd’s voice. That’s how the shepherd leads them, merely by the sound of his voice, not by force.
I really stopped and thought about all this sheep stuff . I kept looking at the stain glass in the Main Church of my Parish that portrays Jesus with a lamb on his shoulders. He has that Jesus smirk. It’s not a smile but just a smirk as if He is saying “You have NO idea”. No matter how much I reflected I could NOT wrap my mind around these parables and how sheep had anything to do with my walk with God.
Then God showed me. Stacey and I went to Rome and we had so many amazing moments there. I spent so much time in AWE of God, of my Catholic Faith and that I was coming into the Church. ME, Leticia, the girl who has so many issues with Authority and having people tell me what to do was about to become CATHOLIC. I was blown away. When we first landed, Stacey asked me “What do you want to see while we’re here?” My answer was, “a herd of sheep”. Yeah, I’m telling you, I was really wrapped up in the whole sheep thing!!
We spent 13 amazing days in Rome, and on the last day we went for a walk. The road that we walked down is called Appia Attica. It’s the road that St Peter walked on when he was fleeing Rome. Tradition has it that he met Christ on this road. Stacey and I walked down the road surrounded by Romans out for a walk just like us and the beautiful Roman countryside. It was so awesome, words don’t do it justice.
Stacey and I were admiring the beauty of the whole scene when about a half a mile ahead of us we saw a cloud of white coming from the hillside. We had no idea what it was, then finally as it came closer we figured out that it was a herd of sheep and it was coming our way. Both of us just stood there staring at it then staring at each other. Both in shock. Even the Romans stopped to watch and take pictures, so I’m thinking that a herd of sheep going down the road is not something even they see everyday.
As the herd got closer to us we could see the shepherd. He looked like he was at least 1,000 years old. I can’t even describe him, I had tears streaming down my face. Finally the sheep were surrounding us, and as I looked at them I finally understood all the sheep parables. They were playing and jumping, they had such joy and were worrying about nothing. Because their shepherd was leading them, and that’s all they needed : his voice. Just watching them you could see LOVE. Not the kind of love that people see in movies or in books, but real and true love. When the shepherd got up close to us I looked at him and there was that smirk. You know the one Jesus always has in the pictures of Him? When that shepherd looked at me I felt the love of God from the top of my head all the way to my toes. I just stood there staring at that shepherd for what seemed like forever. Finally my stare was broken by one of his sheep, who was staring at me with the same intensity that I was staring at its shepherd. At that moment I just thought “Don’t under-estimate what God will do for you.” WHOA! I realized that God had answered me, I asked to see a herd of sheep, to understand what the deal was with sheep and why Jesus being a shepherd was such a big deal. And in a small time frame He had answered all of that WITH a herd of sheep!! In Rome, on the road that St Peter walked, that he had met the risen Christ on!! I was speechless. I don’t really think I understood what had just happened, if I had I surely would’ve fainted.
It wasn’t until months later, when Stacey got home from Afghanistan, and we talked about it, that I realized what a miracle that was. I was so doubtful of becoming Catholic. I didn’t want to be “one of those” church people. I didn’t want to let go of all the “fun” I was having. I just wanted to be me. I didn’t want to change and I didn’t want some guy in a robe in Rome to tell me what I can and can’t do. That was my idea of what being “that” Catholic would mean. I was going to lose who I was. (I did lose who I was, but not the way I thought I was going to.) What God taught me with that herd of sheep, was that being Catholic was not about what I was going to lose, but what I was going to gain. I was a lost sheep. I needed a shepherd and a flock. With a shepherd loving me, leading me with his voice and in a flock, I have nothing to worry about. I am loved and I’m fed. Jesus is my Shepherd and the Catholic Church is His voice. All I need is to recognize it and follow Him.
I have my flock too. My parish family that I love, led by two amazing priests. Every time I go to my parish, I get so many “how are you’s?” from people who really care how I am. When I need prayer they pray for me. When I have questions they help me find the answers to them. Most importantly they hug me. I know that sounds so cheesy, but for a girl who couldn’t stand to be hugged, it means a lot. I’m the girl who never fit in anywhere, and I felt unlovable most of my life. Now I am able to hug my brothers and sisters in Christ and know that I am loved.
All that came from one afternoon walk in Rome, plus thinking and reflecting on it for a year and a half!!
Never under-estimate what God will do for you.