Sunday, May 07, 2006

Jn 10:11

"Jesus said: "I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep." (Jn 10:11)

The readings we hear today are a gold mine, not least of all because they include the famous words of Christ when He says "I am the good Shepherd." Combine this with Christ's command to His Apostles, the first bishops, that as the Father sent Him, so Christ sends His Apostles.

In a certain sense, the lay people are called to be shepherds to. How can you not be when you have children to bring up and perhaps God-children to guide, too? But when we hear a "shepherd" spoken of, our minds go to the clergy. So let's look and see in what way our priests, bishops, and Pope, are to carry out this role of the good shepherd here on earth, and in the process pray that they may more fully live up to it.

A shepherd is gentle. While a point might actually be right, it should be broadcast across in a gentle manner. If someone wanders from the Church, you talk with them, and moreover, pray for them. You don't go up to telling them their insane and will probably go to hell. Do you risk going to hell if you ditch the Church? Yes, you do risk it. But in order to turn them back it must be approached with gentleness and charity.

A shepherd is wise. He does not seek to gratify the whims of society and nor should he focus on fleeting things of this world such as what the media thinks of this or that decision. A shepherd pastors by doing the right things that will have be for the best in the long run, and not what will get people to stop complaining. A wise shepherd knows when he is right, and when he actually needs counsel.

A shepherd is there. How often would a priest like to put on his slippers and fall asleep by the fire instead of going to the house of someone who needs help, even if that's just company and a shoulder to cry on?

A shepherd speaks the truth, and he does not hesitate to point out sin and error. Our idea of charity today is looking the other way and affirming people in whatever lifestyle when in fact that is the most uncharitable thing you could possibly do. Charity is coming to your friend and saying you love them and because you love them, you have to tell them that the path they are trotting does not lead to heaven. Would a shepherd let a sheep wander into the great beyond to inevitably get lost and probably also killed? Then why would a priest look at his flock, see the work that needs to be done in order for the sheep to live live truly holy, honest, and upright lives, but do nothing? The answer is because the fear of being yelled at and rejected - the answer is cowardice.

A shepherd is brave. In order to be brave, you must trust entirely in God. If you succumb to the empty threats of this world it is because you are putting your trust in men. There is nothing wrong with putting trust in men so long as it goes above all to God. When a shepherd wants to pastorally correct a dissolute lifestyle in one of his sheep but doesn't under threat of, for example, a discontinuation of funds, he is putting his trust in men and not in God who will provide.

A shepherd loves. There is no one element that can can be done without and still be all the shepherd he can be, but love, real love, is the stone rejected by the builders that has become the cornerstone. The cornerstone to all things in life, which most certainly included the ordained ministry.

Love is why a shepherd is gentle but firm; it is why he wise and shares his wisdom with those in dilemma; it is why he is there to comfort the grieving; it is why he speaks the truth; and it is why he is brave in his zeal for souls especially for the "sheep that are not of this fold", as Jesus says in John's Gospel, so that there may be one flock with one shepherd, the successor of the Christ's blessed Apostle Peter.

And all this is done to the service and glory of Jesus Christ of whom there is, as His blessed Apostle Peter says in the epistle today, "no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved."

So let's try and make an extra effort to pray for the clergy of the Church who need our prayers so badly. Some need them because they do not know that they need them; because they are pleasing to our society whose culture of death we are supposed to be a thorn of truth in the side of. Some need them because they are courageous and take much mockery and contempt for the right practice of their faith. Some need them because they are in between and just need a couple of friends to give them the moral support to go out and truly win souls for Christ.

Regardless the reason, they all need them. This week, let's try and give it to them.