By Dcn. Angel Hernandez
During my formation studies, many of the theology professors really made us think, dig deep and read between the lines in Scripture. In the Gospel of Luke (Mass at night for Christmas), shepherds are mentioned. I never really thought about what a shepherd looked like until Professor Micah Kiel of St. Ambrose University in Davenport taught us exegesis, which is a critical explanation or interpretation of Scripture.
Shepherds were frowned upon in ancient Israel. They handled sheep all day and night, feeding them, cleaning up after them and treating their wounds and, because they were always dirty, shepherds could not enter God’s temple and be in his presence. Yet the Lord chooses them to have his angel come and announce the coming of our Lord and Savior in Luke’s Gospel.
In today’s society, people from all walks of life work around the clock so that we may live a comfortable life. They are farmers in the field, people stocking our stores, people making our meal at a nice restaurant, janitors who work night shift so that the building is clean the next day, and the person delivering our package that we ordered yesterday.
They come home exhausted, dirty; their hands show evidence of the physical labor they have done. There is a good chance that some of these people work two jobs to keep up with the cost of living.
They are the marginalized, the forgotten, the people we pass by and don’t notice. Yet they are everything to our God, they are his children, his beloved. He welcomes them with open arms and gives them a place to rest their hearts and their souls.
As baptized Christians, we are entrusted to be beacons of light to the world, messengers of God who spread the Good News that he is truly and fully alive.
In Luke’s Gospel, Jesus wasn’t born in a palace or a fancy hospital; he was born poor in a manger. Around animals that probably smelled and were unclean, but none of that mattered. God the Son was born there. The first people to greet him and recognize the God child were shepherds.
God doesn’t care what we do as a profession. If he did, his angel wouldn’t have appeared to shepherds and he wouldn’t have been born in a manger to a carpenter.
Today, shepherds are still seeking the Lord because they have been told that he is here (the Church). They have journeyed from far away, seeking him, the descendant of David, a shepherd himself. May we recognize and welcome the shepherds of today’s society as God welcomes and invites them to share and to break bread with us, made from human hands to celebrate together the birth of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.
(Deacon Angel Hernandez serves at St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City.)