Pre-note: We have just posted on our
webpage an article entitled, "Inculturated Liturgy Challenges
Preaching to Flower," by Bruce Schultz, OP. Go to:
http://www.preacherexchange.com/index.htm and click on "Preaching Essay."
Today is traditionally called, "Good
Shepherd Sunday." It seems that in every parish where I’ve preached
there is an image in stained-glass, painting or statuary of the Good
Shepherd. There is a congregation of Good Shepherd Sisters, founded
to care for troubled girls and women (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Good_Shepherd); and hospitals and homeless shelters named
after the Good Shepherd. The image of Christ as the Good Shepherd
speaks to everyone – from biblical scholar to an unlettered peasant
in a rural Honduran parish. The earliest statue of Christ (4th
century) found in the Roman catacombs, depicts him as a youthful
shepherd with a lamb across his shoulders. Still, what is so
familiar can be ignored, reduced to clichés or taken for granted.
While the images of the Good Shepherd
are tranquil and frequently set in a pastoral setting, the life of a
shepherd in Jesus’ time was anything but calm and picturesque.
Shepherding was a risky business and dangerous. Shepherds lived in
the fields with their sheep. It doesn’t take much imagination to
picture their appearance and imagine their smell! Because they came
and went, leading their sheep from one pasture to another, they
lacked roots in the community. So, they were always under suspicion.
If something went missing the first suspects were the vagabond
shepherds. Because of their reputation their testimony was not
accepted in a court of law. Jesus, calling himself the "Good
Shepherd," would have been an affront to the establishment,
especially the religious leaders and educated citizens. What would
he call himself today? The good illegal immigrant?
In the Old Testament, shepherd was a
metaphor for the leaders of God’s people. Most often they failed in
their responsibilities and were corrupt. God excoriates the
incompetent and sinful leaders who were appointed to shepherd the
people. With the failures of the leaders of the people, God decided
to take on the shepherding role. "For thus says the Lord: I myself
will look after and tend my sheep. (Ezekiel 34:11). In today’s
gospel Jesus likens Israel’s corrupt shepherds to the "hired man"
who deserts the sheep when danger approaches, leaving them in peril.
Shepherding hasn’t stopped being a
messy task. Ask any staff person in a parish; a bishop in a diocese;
any catechist or parent, trying to get their adult kids to go to
church – "At least for the sake of my grandchildren!"
We have done nothing to merit what
Jesus has done for us – and continues to do for us. Our passage’s
subject is Jesus the Shepherd. He is the chief actor. We are the
objects, we receive what he offers us. At first, the sheep don’t
realize they need help. But the Shepherd does and he sets out to
bring us home. We hear the shepherd’s voice when: a Scripture
passage speaks to us; a spouse, or close friend, makes us aware that
we seem displaced or confused; a friend teases us and later,
reflecting on what was said, causes us to stop to think things over;
a counselor helps us deal with an issue we have been ignoring; a
poem or movie touches something deep in us, etc. At these times and
so many more, we realize the Shepherd has come out looking for us,
is calling us by name and will show us the path home, one step at a
time. Even before we realize we are in need of rescue, the Shepherd
has already noticed and is on the way towards us.
Jesus challenges those of us who have
pastoral responsibilities, of any kind – both as ordained or lay
ministers. We are to be the responsible shepherds, guiding Christ’s
sheep; charged to be his representatives to his flock. Jesus intends
that, through us, his sheep will hear his voice. Here in Texas one
of our iconic images is the cowboy herding cattle across the plains.
They do that from the rear of the herd. But shepherds did it
differently. They would go ahead of the sheep, talking to them as
they went. Shepherds went first. Wherever the Shepherd went the
sheep would follow, listening to the familiar sounds of the
That seems to be the aspect of
shepherding Jesus claims when he calls himself the Good Shepherd. He
says he knows us and we know him. The relationship between shepherd
and sheep gives us some idea of our relationship with Jesus. He
describes that relationship to be as strong and intimate as the one
he has with his Father. Nothing can break that bond. When the sheep
go astray our Shepherd comes out looking for us. He does not give up
on us, even though it will require his life. "I will lay down my
life for the sheep."
The missionary task Jesus gives us is
that we are to be faithful to our calling as his representatives.
How can we speak his word to the flock unless we ourselves listen
attentively for it and welcome it? We strive to hear the Shepherd’s
voice so we can proclaim it to our needy church and world. So, we
put ourselves in listening mode when we: sit with the Scriptures and
allow ourselves to be formed by the Word; carve out some quiet space
for ourselves; read something that enriches our spirits; have a
conversation of significance with a wise person; listen to the
voices of the poor; position ourselves in quiet before the wonders
of nature, etc.
Which does not exclude the need for
study and reflection; another way the Good Shepherd speaks to us.
After we listeners have done this, we become speakers. We "break the
silence" to speak a word – as preacher, catechist, liturgist,
musician, teacher, parent etc.
But who has time for all this
reflective listening? In our noisy and distracting world no one
really does. That’s why we have to break the pattern, put aside some
time to hear the interior voice of the Shepherd who wants to speak
to us in diverse ways. But not only to us, for through us the
Shepherd reaches out to the flock charged to our care.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s
Jesus had died for him, Peter relying on his own
resources, can only deny him, but after Jesus has died
and risen, Peter can follow him along the same road to
his own death and resurrection.
Windows on the Cross
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Beloved: See what love the Father has
bestowed on us that we may be called the children of God.
Repeat after me: "I am a beloved child
of God." Doesn’t that bring a smile to your face when you really
absorb what that means? What was the most wonderful part of being a
child for you? Was it the innocence, the joy of living in the
present moment, the openness to being surprised, and/or a sense of
hopefulness? Is it possible to recapture that feeling when you
consider that you are a beloved child of God? For so many children
in the world today, their childhood is being stolen from them
through wars, hatred, greed, and manipulation. In the West, the
idols of power and privilege warp young people’s sense of values.
Pope Francis states in his homily at
the Basilica of the Shrine of Our Lady of the Conception, Aparecida
(7/24/13) that: "It is true that nowadays, to some extent,
everyone, including our young people, feels attracted by the many
idols which take the place of God and appear to offer hope: money,
success, power, pleasure. Often a growing sense of loneliness and
emptiness in the hearts of many people leads them to seek
satisfaction in these ephemeral idols. Dear brothers and sisters,
let us be lights of hope! Let us maintain a positive outlook on
reality. Let us encourage the generosity which is typical of the
young and help them to work actively in building a better world.
Young people are a powerful engine for the Church and for society.
They do not need material things alone; also and above all, they
need to have held up to them those non-material values which are the
spiritual heart of a people, the memory of a people. In this Shrine,
which is part of the memory of Brazil, we can almost read those
values: spirituality, generosity, solidarity, perseverance,
fraternity, joy; they are values whose deepest root is in the
I am a beloved child of God. . .if we
sense how much God loves us and how much we return that love through
our actions, our hearts will light a world that is dark and dreary
for so many, especially for children in countries of the Middle
East, Ukraine, Central and South America, and Africa. Here, in the
USA, there are many homeless children in need of the joy of hope.
One ministry is Wake Interfaith Hospitality Network (WIHN) where
parishioner Jonathan Hammill helps care for homeless kids on Monday
evenings. Another is A Note in the Pocket, led by Linda Bedo, which
provides school clothes. Contact my office if you can help another
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Coordinator of Social Justice Ministries
Sacred Heart Cathedral--Raleigh, N.C.
Mini-reflections on the Sunday
scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is
also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people
From today’s Gospel reading:
I am the good shepherd.
A good shepherd lays down his life for the
The missionary task Jesus gives us is
that we be faithful to our calling as his representatives. We strive
to hear the shepherd’s voice so we can proclaim it to our needy
church and world. How can we speak his word to those who need it
unless we ourselves listen attentively for it and welcome it?
So we ask ourselves:
- Do I take some quiet periods in
the day to listen to the small, still voice of God within? How
do I do that?
- In which people do I hear the
Shepherd’s voice speaking to me?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
It is impossible to imagine that states
today cannot make use of another means than capital punishment to
defend peoples' lives from an unjust aggressor,"
—Pope Francis, Oct. 23, in a meeting
with representatives of the International Association of Penal Law.
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in
the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’
names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more
of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like,
tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of
Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Malcolm Geddie #0143501 (On death
row since 9/29/94)
- Daniel Cummings #0095279 (1/16/94)
- Jerry W. Connor #0085045 (4/30/91)
----Central Prison 4285 Mail Service
Center, Raleigh 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic
position on the death penalty go to the webpage of the Catholic
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St. Albert Priory
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