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In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things came to be through him, and without him nothing came to be. What came to be through him was life, and this life was the light of the human race; the light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.
“In the beginning” is the perfect passage as we approach the end of another year. No life is similar. No day is really similar. Today, I find myself writing from Israel. Next year, who knows? Some things change. Some things never change. God never changes. He is the first and the last. His reign never ends; mercy endures forever; his offer of salvation remains open to all now and forever.
Today’s Gospel passage is the same that is used on Christmas day. Christ is the first and the last, the alpha and the omega. All things, all people, great or small revolve around him, like it or not. History orbits around him. The powerful revolve around him. The meek and humble of heart are surrounded by Him. Christ is King, regardless of whether or not he is lying in a manger, sitting on a donkey, or nailed to a cross!
This morning I celebrated Mass at the Shepherd’s field in Bethlehem. It is a beautiful patch of grass land that is used even today. We know that the angels approached shepherds in this region, near to where I celebrated Mass. All the Shepherds in Bethlehem know these fields. Now I know them too.
In this morning’s tour, our local guide asked us an interesting question. He started by reminding us that one of the most beautiful representations of Jesus known to man is that of the Good Shepherd; that is, Christ carrying a sheep on his back. This image is very well known to every Christian. But why would Jesus carry a little lamb on his back? Why would any shepherd carry a lamb on their back? As we were approaching the fields, I, along with the others on our bus, actually saw two young shepherds running after a poor little lost sheep. What I didn’t know is that the lost sheep are almost always the new ones, the little ones. You see, they don’t know the Shepherd’s voice, not yet. And so, they normally run away. Therefore, what a typical shepherd will do is break one of its legs. That’s right! The Shepherd will break one of the little lamb’s legs so that it cannot escape and must be carried for a few months. In this manner, the little creature will begin a close relationship with the shepherd and will recognize his master’s voice and by the time that the fracture is healed. It will no longer run away.
While everyone in the group was visibly disturbed at the thought of a little lamb being harmed, I, on the contrary, was meditating and reflecting. I dared to say, in my homily to them, that it would be beautiful if the Lord would break my “spiritual” leg (my crutch you may say) and carry me upon his shoulders! How beautiful it would be to be dependent upon Him so as to know Him, to recognize Him and to fall in love with Him while being so close to Him! Imagine the thought!
What the tour guide failed to mention is that the image of the Good Shepherd with the lost sheep upon his shoulders is also similar to another image that is universal in character: the image of the champion! In every culture the victor, the champion, the winner is always carried upon the shoulders of a man that is proud of him, knows him and contributed to his success. Yes, behind (or under) every successful man is a Man that is even more successful! The last shall be first and the first shall be last. Christ is the alpha and omega, the first and the last. He is the first that makes himself last so that we can be first. You gotta love Him for that!
Happy New Year! Break a leg!