I will not post again until next weekend as this is exam week, graduation week.
Today, “Shepherd Sunday,” is also the world day of prayer for vocations. Per the United States Bishops:
The purpose of the World Day of Prayer for Vocations is to publically fulfill the Lord’s instruction to, “Pray the Lord of the harvest to send laborers into his harvest” (Mt 9:38; Lk 10:2). As a climax to a prayer that is continually offered throughout the Church, it affirms the primacy of faith and grace in all that concerns vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life. While appreciating all vocations, the Church concentrates its attention this day on vocations to the ordained ministries (priesthood and diaconate), to the Religious life in all its forms (male and female, contemplative and apostolic), to societies of apostolic life, to secular institutes in their diversity of services and membership, and to the missionary life, in the particular sense of mission “ad gentes”.
We pray God raise up men and women to serve in these various states of life and ecclesial movements that serve a pivotal role in teaching, governing and sanctifying God’s People.
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Let me share a very simple anecdote that gives evidence of my immense gratitude for countless shepherds who have shown me and my family the way.
Several years ago, my youngest daughter was asked at the last minute to serve at Mass in a new capacity she had never been trained for. She was completely overcome with fear and tears, though I was unaware of all this as it happened across the church from where I was sitting. I suddenly noticed her sitting over in a pew wiping tears from her eyes, but before I could even get up the parochial vicar walked right over to her and knelt down next to her. She started to smile and he led her back to the sacristy. My heart was full and my eyes welled up. She came out for Mass fully confident and did very well. Later, when I asked her what happened, she said (after she told me what they asked her to do): “Father’s so nice. He made me feel better and showed me what to do.”
And she did it. She’s forgotten his homily from that day, but that encounter she still remembers.
Great summary of priestly ministry as an icon of the tenderness of Christ, whose love strengthens the weak and frightened, leading them to courageously walk in the way of God. For, as Pope Francis said recently:
Tenderness is not weakness; it is fortitude. It is the path of solidarity, the path of humility. Please, allow me to say it loud and clear: The more powerful you are, the more your actions will have an impact on people, the more responsible you are to act humbly. If you don’t, your power will ruin you, and you will ruin the other.
Let me end with two meditations on priestly leadership for this Good Shepherd Sunday, both taken from Popes.
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Many when they receive a position of ruling (i.e. priest) are on fire to tear their subjects to pieces. They demonstrate the terror of authority, and harm those they ought to assist. Because they have no love in their hearts, they are eager to appear to be masters, and fail to recall they are fathers. They change from a position of humility to one of pride and dominance; if they flatter outwardly on occasion, inwardly they rage. Truth says of them elsewhere: “They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” — Pope Gregory the Great, Homily on Luke 10:1-7
The pastor must be inspired by Christ’s holy zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love. There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earth’s treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction. The Church as a whole and all her Pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the One who gives us life, and life in abundance. The symbol of the lamb also has a deeper meaning. In the Ancient Near East, it was customary for kings to style themselves shepherds of their people. This was an image of their power, a cynical image: to them their subjects were like sheep, which the shepherd could dispose of as he wished. When the shepherd of all humanity, the living God, himself became a lamb, he stood on the side of the lambs, with those who are downtrodden and killed. This is how he reveals himself to be the true shepherd: “I am the Good Shepherd . . . I lay down my life for the sheep”, Jesus says of himself (Jn 10:14f). It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God’s sign: he himself is love. How often we wish that God would make show himself stronger, that he would strike decisively, defeating evil and creating a better world. All ideologies of power justify themselves in exactly this way, they justify the destruction of whatever would stand in the way of progress and the liberation of humanity. We suffer on account of God’s patience. And yet, we need his patience. God, who became a lamb, tells us that the world is saved by the Crucified One, not by those who crucified him. The world is redeemed by the patience of God. It is destroyed by the impatience of man.
One of the basic characteristics of a shepherd must be to love the people entrusted to him, even as he loves Christ whom he serves. “Feed my sheep”, says Christ to Peter, and now, at this moment, he says it to me as well. Feeding means loving, and loving also means being ready to suffer. Loving means giving the sheep what is truly good, the nourishment of God’s truth, of God’s word, the nourishment of his presence, which he gives us in the Blessed Sacrament. My dear friends – at this moment I can only say: pray for me, that I may learn to love the Lord more and more. Pray for me, that I may learn to love his flock more and more – in other words, you, the holy Church, each one of you and all of you together. Pray for me, that I may not flee for fear of the wolves. Let us pray for one another, that the Lord will carry us and that we will learn to carry one another. — Pope Benedict XVI