In the Gospel Jesus said he knows his sheep, and they follow him. In Our Lord’s time every family had a few sheep, so the relationship between sheep and their shepherds was a familiar matter for Jesus to use for giving examples about healthy religious life. With us. however, keeping sheep isn’t that common, it might even be against the law. So let me recreate what I take to have been the sheep keeping business back then.
For their wool and their meat, every family kept up to a dozen sheep, and they were usually entrusted to a boy in the family who grew up with the family’s little flock. Every day the little shepherd, with no schools back then, took his (or her) sheep off to the hills to fatten up on grass.
For safe keeping at night, each little flock was brought to a common enclosure called a sheepfold. It would be a stonewall enclosure with briars along its rim, and with just one gate.
A cute thing came in the morning when the shepherds would come individually to call their sheep to wake and follow them. I say it was cute, because surprisingly, with a dozen or more little flocks sleeping in the sheepfold, when a shepherd made the sound familiar to his sheep, and only to his sheep; they would hop up and follow him, leaving the other little flocks sleeping.
Monsignor Logan in our diocese kept sheep in Ireland where he moved them by flipping a switch behind them, urging them on. He hadn’t believed the Gospel stories about the sheep meekly following their shepherd’s voice. But, on going to the Holy Land he checked on it, and found it to be true. The sheep followed their shepherd’ voice, and no other.