I myself remember meeting one real shepherd in my life: an illiterate, unshaven man with bad teeth who always wanted to borrow some beer as he came by with his smelly herd of dirty sheep.
Indeed, shepherds historically have not been well thought of by the rest of their contemporaries. Generally, they have been considered among the lowest ranks of society.
It is to one of these that God appears in today’s first reading (Exodus 3:1-6, 9-12).
Moses may have been raised in a palace at one of the greatest centers of technology and civilization in the world, but now he could only get a job working for his father-in-law as a shepherd in the middle of nowhere.
And it is to this man, this reject, that God chooses to speak.
Nor was this an isolated instance of God “slumming” as we hear our Lord himself say in today’s Gospel (Matthew 11:25-27):
I give praise to you, Father,
Lord of heaven and earth,
for although you have hidden these things
from the wise and the learned
you have revealed them to the childlike.
Yes, Father, such has been your gracious will.
All things have been handed over to me by my Father.
No one knows the Son except the Father,
and no one knows the Father except the Son
and anyone to whom the Son wishes to reveal him.
Why is God heard by the humble and the childlike more than by the wise and the learned?
One reason is simply because the humble and the childlike listen.
The wise and the learned, on the other hand, often listen very poorly. Their minds (as individuals and as cliques) are too full of the self-congratulatory echoes of their own knowledge and erudition. They forget the limits of their finite minds and forget that reality extends infinitely beyond what they know (no matter how much that may be).
That is not to say that human knowledge is useless, quite the contrary, but none of us – illiterate shepherd or super-educated geek – dare ever think ourselves too busy or too wise to keep our ears, minds, and hearts open to the wisdom of God.