So Jesus spoke again, “I assure you that I am the gate of the sheep. All who came before me were thieves and outlaws, but the sheep didn’t listen to them. I am the gate. Whoever enters through me will be saved. They will come in and go out and find pasture. The thief enters only to steal, kill, and destroy. I came so that they could have life — indeed, so that they could live life to the fullest.
“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. When the hired hand sees the wolf coming, he leaves the sheep and runs away. That’s because he isn’t the shepherd; the sheep aren’t really his. So the wolf attacks the sheep and scatters them. He’s only a hired hand and the sheep don’t matter to him.
“I am the good shepherd. I know my own sheep and they know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father. I give up my life for the sheep.”
“Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?” — Clarence
Fingerprints are a funny thing. Even identical twins don’t have the exact same fingerprints. They are our unique mark. When we leave a place, they get left behind, acknowledging our presence. On a couple of different occasions in the gospels, Jesus refers to himself as “The Good Shepherd.” He leaves the 99 sheep behind to go after the one who has wandered off. He even lays down his life on behalf of the sheep! That’s one heck of a promise. But that’s Jesus. That’s his fingerprint on our lives. The mark he leaves behind is one of love. In It’s a Wonderful Life, George Bailey discovers what the world would look like if he had never been born, if his fingerprints had never been left on anyone’s life. The world would be different, and not better. George had a mark to leave that no one else could. So do we. Just as Jesus lays down his life for us, may we leave our unique fingerprints of love on everyone we meet. Our fingerprints are all different, but they are all equally indispensable. And the world needs yours!
Father, you are the good shepherd. When I am lost, you search for me. When I wander, you run after me. When I am lonely, you hold me tight. You know every hair on my head and made my fingerprint. Help me to see your work in the world around me. And as I participate in the story you are telling around me, may my participation point others and myself to you. Amen.