It is the peak of summer. “Oh, what a hot day!” the farm animals complain. Horses are lazy; donkeys stubbornly refuse to budge; the cows do not want to leave the corral; the hens cluck crossly… Everyone is uncomfortable, it is true, but at least there is enough water and shade to make the heat bearable for almost everyone.
One little animal, however, is particularly distraught. She is due for her first shearing! And Lucinda – for that is her name – is nearly beside herself with impatience to be rid of her heavy coat of wool.
“Papa!” bleats the lamb. “When will the shepherd come to shear me?”
“It won’t be much longer, my daughter!”
“Ba-a-a-a-a!” I can’t wait another minute!”
“But you must wait, Lucinda! At least be happy that your mother and I have taken such good care to keep your coat spotless. The shepherd will be so pleased…”
Lucinda sighs and takes a little walk over to the pond to quench her thirst. As she bends down to drink, she sees the fish swimming happily about in the water.
“So, is the sun shining out there?” asks the carp in a playful tone.
“It certainly is…”
The minnow joins the conversation:
“I can tell. The water temperature is warmer at the surface, but it’s still cool here below. You must be terribly hot, ‘bundled up’ in your permanent coat. Wouldn’t you like to jump in, Lucinda?”
“I would, but I can’t swim!”
Lucinda walks a little further and finds a shady little shelter, where she settles down to rest. Peering out at the clear blue sky she thinks to herself: “Not a single white and fluffy cloud to cover the sun. I’m the only white and fluffy thing to be seen, and I wish I weren’t… Oh, it’s so hot! I think I will wait for the shepherd right here in this shade. When he wants my wool, he can come and get it!”
Becoming drowsy, Lucinda nods off. But she is soon awoken by loud squeals of laughter coming from nearby. “How is it possible to be so jolly in this heat?” she asks herself. Curious, she gets up to investigate.
A short distance away, she finds some pigs in their pen, rolling and playing in mud. They are enjoying themselves because the soft and slimy mud cools them. As she approaches, her first reaction is a wave of disgust.
“Hey, little lamb, why the long face? We are all having a great time wallowing in this glorious mud!” grunts one of the older pigs.
A younger pig comes to the fence, close to where Lucinda is standing. There is something mean about his look, but he tries to sound friendly:
“Oh, nice to meet you! My name is Porcus. What’s yours?”
“I see you every once in a while from a distance, running and jumping in the meadow. We must be around the same age. But I have to say that I feel sorry for you.”
“Sorry for me? Why?”
“Because at this age, you should be having fun, but instead you are forced to suffer this tremendous heat! Lucinda, youth is to be enjoyed! We pigs know how to get the most pleasure out of life – that’s why we spend so much time in the mud. This is the only way to live. Don’t you want to try it a little?”
Hesitant, and repelled by the foul smell of the pigsty, the lamb begins to back away:
“No, I can’t! The shepherd is coming soon to shear me!”
“Oh, really? Look how long he’s taking… Afterwards, you’ll have plenty of time to wash up. You’ll be the same as ever, trust me!”
Lucinda is finally convinced. She squeezes through a gap in the fence and is soon diving into the mud with her new “friend”… “Ah, how cool and refreshing,” thinks the lamb who no longer suits her name, which means light.
After a few moments of comfort, she realizes it is time to return to her fold. She takes leave of the pigs, who call out:
“Goodbye for now! Come back soon!”
Heading towards home, Lucinda suddenly realizes the state she is in and stops in her tracks. “How can I appear before my family like this?” After some thought, she decides: “No, I will spend the night in that little shelter I found.”
The next day, she is horrified to find her coat caked with mud that has now hardened. “Oh, no! How will I ever wash this off?” She hurries to the pond she visited yesterday and sets to work.
“Stop, you are dirtying our water!” protest the fish.
Once wet, the clay only seems to become more deeply embedded in her coat. In tears, she decides to face the humiliation of presenting herself at home.
Everyone is shocked at her frightful appearance.
“My dear,” exclaims her mother, “what happened? Your wool was so beautiful! What did you do?”
Through sobs she confesses everything. Seeing her true repentance, everyone sympathizes and tries to console her. Her dedicated mother gives her a good scrubbing, which works wonders. At last, her wool is restored to its original snowy splendour!
However… the weather is only getting hotter. The little lamb sometimes remembers the “delights” of the mud, but then the disastrous consequences come to mind. A struggle takes place inside her: should she go back or not? Temptation gradually gets the better of her, until one day she has a “brilliant” idea: she will shear herself! This way, she can cool off in the mud without dirtying a thick coat of wool.
On the sly, she cuts all her wool away. It is a clumsy job and the result is terrible… When she finishes, she runs to the pigpen and “flop!” She sinks into a pile of mud.
“Welcome back! You are one of us!” cheer the pigs.
“Lucinda, I think you will have to live here with us. How can you return to the fold without your wool? Ha ha ha!”
Hearing these words, shame invades her heart, making room for sincere repentance.
“How could I have done such a thing? Just look at me!”
Afraid of the disappointment she would cause her parents and especially the shepherd, she once again takes refuge that night in her secret shelter.
As darkness falls, the temperature drops. She has never felt such cold, and there is no way to get warm. At the same time, a sadness greater than she had ever felt before weighs upon her heart.
At dawn, she awakens to the sound of footstep coming close. She opens her eyes and sees the shepherd in front of her. Looking down at the dirty, bare, cold and hungry little lamb, he is filled with mercy. Fearfully, she begins to turn away, but he, without thinking twice, takes her into his arms and shelters her under his mantle.
The shepherd himself cleans her, covers her, and feeds her. Thanks to her protector’s care, which she gratefully receives, Lucinda is soon covered with a new coat, even whiter, shinier and softer than before. Never had such precious wool been seen!
Oh! Whenever we stain the whiteness of our soul with the fleeting pleasures that the mud of sin offers us, we are left with nothing but emptiness, frustration and shame. However, as long as we are willing to return to the right path, the Good Shepherd will always be ready to carry us back to the fold, so that we may continue to produce the warm wool of good works for His greater glory! ◊