Very early in my ministry, I pastored a small Texas church, smack in the middle of cattle country. There were real cowboys in my parish. One of them once said to me, "You know, Father, there’s a reason Jesus said that he was the good shepherd, and not the good cowboy." Cows, he explained, are rather obstinate creatures. To get them going in the right direction, they need to be pushed and poked from behind- sometimes with an electric prodder!
Sheep, however, are very different from cows. When they hear their shepherd’s call, they happily follow his lead. Just like Jesus said in today’s gospel: "My sheep hear my voice. I know them, and they follow me." In speaking of himself as a shepherd, then, and not a cowboy, it would seem that Jesus is saying that he doesn’t want to have to push us like cows. Instead, he wants us to follow him like sheep.
To follow Jesus like a sheep, however, we need to trust in him. And that’s what our Lord invites us to do today. In the words of a popular hymn, he wants to shepherd us beyond our wants, beyond our fears, from death into life. Should we trust the Jesus our shepherd, we will learn that surely, there is nothing we shall want.