This coming Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday – so called because the Gospel in all three cycles speaks of Jesus as our Shepherd. In many places in this country, this is also a day of prayer for vocations to the priesthood and religious life. Just before leaving for vacation a week ago, a priest who lives at Moreau Seminary told me that there might be as many as 14 new candidates entering Holy Cross next year, plus a goodly number of returnees from novitiate and Old College! Wow…..that there is good news indeed!
It’s very easy to hear all these Gospel stories about shepherds, to say nothing of all the Old Testament uses of the term, and compare our religious leadership to the ideal shepherd. I suspect that in many cases folks feel their religious leaders fail the test…they fail to truly feed and nourish our spirits. I know that I have failed various people at various times in my ministry….it’s mostly been inadvertent, rarely deliberate or malicious. But no matter….I failed to be a shepherd and acted more like a thief or robber, taking away life and spirit instead of fostering its growth.
But there is another way I’ve failed too….and I’m pretty sure you can say the same about yourself. Each morning and evening we as a community gather to pray the Morning or Evening Prayer. It consists of three psalms, a reading from Scripture, either the Benedictus (in the AM) or the Magnificat (in the PM), and it ends with some intercessions. One of the intercessions (I don’t have my Office book here so I can’t get the exact wording) begs God’s blessing on those who shepherd our church, and then asks God to grant those shepherds an obedient flock. I like to ask our Superior afterwards if we’re an obedient flock…he just rolls his eyes.
But shepherds do need a responsive, obedient flock. It doesn’t mean giving up freedom or intelligence or common sense, but there should be at the very least a spirit of cooperation, an openness to listening to the shepherd’s voice. If we sheep acted like cats, the shepherd’s job would be near impossible!
Be God’s smile for your shepherd today!!
Fr. Herb, C.S.C.