Note: Last Sunday was the 4th Sunday of Easter, may also be commonly known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The CCCB Ordo also makes mention this day as World Day of Prayer for Vocations. This year was no ordinary 4th Sunday of Easter. Unlike any other year, it is a 4th Sunday of Easter in the Jubilee of Mercy. I take sometime to reflect on not only Priests as shepherds, but also on the role of shepherds in school and family, somewhat revolving around TCDSB’s three year Pastoral Plan.
Across from my bed in my room is the Icon of the Good Shepherd. It is often the first image I see in the day. The image of the Good Shepherd is such a beautiful image that comes from the Gospel of John, chapter 10, verses 1-20. This image of the Good Shepherd is also seen in one of Jesus’ parables in the Gospel of Luke (often referred to as the Gospel of Mercy) in chapter 15, verses 1-7. The role of the shepherd is not only to look after a flock of sheep, but to attend to the needs of each and everyone of them, making sure all are fed and not one is lost. This beautiful image truly reflects God, a merciful shepherd who is always going out to find the lost sheep, feeding the hungry sheep and takes care of them all.
The Gospel of the Fourth Sunday of Easter in all three Reading Cycles, A – B – C all have the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. Therefore, the Fourth Sunday of Easter is sometimes referred to as Good Shepherd Sunday. The faithful are often reminded to pray for their shepherds, priests, bishops and the Pope on this day as they are shepherds in the Catholic Church that practice their pastoral priestly ministry. Their priesthood is a gift to the Church. However, let it not be mistaken that the role of the shepherd, especially in the priesthood, is to the “big boss” in the house. Rather, it is the opposite. The shepherd must “lay down their life for the sheep.” (cf. Jn 10:15). Being a shepherd of a large community is a huge responsibility and therefore, we, the sheep must cooperate with him to help build up the Church in faith, hope and charity. The clergy constantly looks up to Jesus, the Good Shepherd and Eternal High Priest during their periods of prayer, especially during the Sacrifice of the Holy Mass and daily Liturgy of the Hours. Also, be assured that our shepherds are always praying on behalf of the universal church. In return, we must pray for them as well for future vocations.
Often, we only think of our priests, bishops and the Pope as shepherds. We sometimes no realize it, but there are other people helping to guide us to salvation. Perhaps they do not do guide us like priests or bishops. Each are called to live their vocation and therefore, shepherds in some sense. The staff in schools, from the principal to the occasional teachers, especially in Catholic Schools must be shepherds in order to help students “go on the strait path”. However, doing so does not mean constantly yelling and disciplining every so often. Those things are good, but too much of it may cause students to feel tired and give up which is the totally opposite outcome you would expect. St. John Baptist de la Salle, the patron saint of teachers encouraged the teaching with kindness rather than the harsh disciplining (during a time when corporal punishment was permissible in France). He emphasized that schools should be places of guiding and correcting with care. John Baptist de la Salle has said, “Know your students individually and be able to understand them.” Another time, he said, “Show much kindness and love for the young people you teach.” Shepherds must understand the needs of their sheep, and needs to have both patience and mercy. Good shepherds must have these qualities in order for any institution or education system to work. Teaching is a vocation and shepherds holding this role must do it well, not to get paid, but for the future of the students, who are the future of the Church.
The last type of shepherds I would like to look at are shepherds in the family. Parents are shepherds in the family and must live their faith in front of their before they can expect their sheep, their children to follow their call to live as Catholics. It is sad to see the numbers of Catholic families’ attendance slowly decline. The future of the Catholic Church does not only rely on shepherds’ guidance of the clergy, teachers and catechists. However, the main people are the parents. Parents are the shepherds that accompany their children throughout most of your child(ren)’s life and if you cannot lead them, then who can? Parents are to spend at least some time praying with their children everyday, even if it can only be five minutes. Try to include prayer everyday and Holy Mass every Sunday (or Saturday Vigil) in your schedules. Also, teach them about the Church. There are so many Catholic resources out there such as websites and apps that will enhance the faith. It is so important to lead your children, young or old, each and everyday to our Lord Jesus.
All shepherds need to know how to care and pour out their heart for others. However, not only should there be caring but mercy as well. Pope Francis, the universal shepherd has been emphasizing this since the beginning of his Pontificate. In the book, “The Church of Mercy“, a book containing words from Pope Francis’ vision for mercy, he said, “Situations can change; people can change. Be the first to seek to bring good. Do not grow accustomed to evil, but defeat it with good.” . This quote refers to all people in general, but first of all shepherds, should seek good and spread the good to others, through our merciful actions and merciful words. Let us pray that the Church will be strengthened through the guidance of our shepherds, therefore, harmonizing our parish, school, and family to glorify God.