What the Sheep Hears

Jesus as the Good Shepherd, Catacombs of Rome, 284 AD
The Good Shepherd
Catacombs of Rome, 284 AD

The Savior, thus the good pastor,
    which means the good shepherd,
Carries this sheep on piggyback,
    the sheep that was lost,
    that was going to get lost
So that the stones in the path
    wouldn’t bruise its bruise feet.
Because there will be more joy in heaven
    over one sinner who returns,
Than for a hundred righteous ones
    who never left.
Because the hundred righteous ones
    who haven’t left will have remained.
They will have remained only
    in faith and in love.
But the sinner who left
    and who almost became lost
By his very going away,
    and because he was going
    to miss the evening call
He aroused fear and
    thus he caused hope itself
    to spring forth
    from the very heart of God,
From Jesus’ heart
The shudder of fear and the shiver,
The tremor of hope.

Because of this lost sheep
    Jesus experienced fear
    in love itself.
And the kind of tremor
    that divine hope creates
    in love itself.

And God had been afraid
    he’d have had to condemn it.

By this sheep, and because
    it wouldn’t return to the fold,
    and because it was going
    to miss the evening call,
Jesus, as a man,
    came to know human anxiety,
Jesus made man,
He came to know what anxiety is
    in the very heart of love,
The gnawing anxiety
    in the worm-eaten heart of love,
But thus he also came to know
    the very first hint
    of hope’s awaking.
When the young virtue hope begins
    to rise in the heart of man,
Under the rough bark,
Like the first bud of April.

— Charles Péguy, from The Portal of the Mystery of Hope

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