Written on: June 6, 2016
When was the last time you saw a shepherd?
Have you ever seen a shepherd?
I can’t recall ever having seen one in person. Or have I?…
The readings for the Feast of the Sacred Heart help us to imagine what shepherds are like. The shepherd seeks out the lost, binds up the injured, heals the sick. When the sheep are in danger, the shepherd rescues them and leads them to safe pastures. The shepherd knows each member of the flock and has a passion for the wounded.
In the Gospel, Jesus tells us how a shepherd rejoices upon finding a lost sheep. One sheep that wanders away is worth as much as ninety-nine others.
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, knows and loves each one of us personally, and he invites us into his loving embrace. He searches for us when we’re lost and brings us back. He will not let us stay lost.
The Sacred Heart is a symbol of God’s merciful, compassionate, everlasting love for all of humanity, indeed for all of creation. Jesus is “the personal love of God who became human, gave himself up for us…and offers us his salvation and his friendship.” (Evangelii Gaudium 128)
The Sacred Heart of Jesus embraces us at every moment with unconditional love and leads us to fullness of life now, and eternal life to come. This is the Christian message, the message of Resurrection, the faith we were baptized into.
In the reading from Romans we hear: “The love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit.” (Rom. 5:5b) This precious gift of the Holy Spirit is both a gift and a responsibility. This gift calls each of us to be shepherds. Because the heart of ministry is a deepening relationship with God that invites others to this encounter.
The New Evangelization asks us to bring the Gospel to the people of our day. To those who have never heard it, and to those who have, but have wandered away. To people who have no experience of God, who do not know Jesus, or have stopped believing that God wants to bring each person and all of creation to the most perfect joy and happiness, to unity and peace.
In this Year of Mercy, Pope Francis is calling us, the flock of Jesus, to be instruments of his love, to share his tenderness and to accompany others along the road of life. Pope Francis reminds us that we “find Jesus in the faces of others, in their voices, in their pleas.” (Evangelii gaudium 91)
His words echo those of St. Marguerite d’Youville: “I look into the face of the poor and see Jesus looking back.” These words have inspired generations of Grey Nuns and Grey Nun Associates to reach out to others in loving service. By walking with, listening and taking on another’s burdens, we see the face of Christ.
The Pope has also challenged us to “have the smell of the sheep.”
We are called to be shepherds for others. Shepherds, like the ones described by Ezekiel, who are in relationship with their flocks. And this may be the hardest part of being a shepherd: to let others shepherd us.
Because it’s not only about giving. Yes, giving is important. We need to give but we also need to receive, because at times, each of us is the lost sheep.
It is not easy to be vulnerable. If we are honest with ourselves, we will admit that we are as much in need of the love and mercy of God as those whose suffering we seek to alleviate. We are all walking the same path, trying to muddle through this life following Jesus as best we can. When we let another minister to us, we see the face of Jesus looking back. We are reminded that it is only by the power of God’s love, that we are able to shepherd others.
We are shepherds doing the work of Jesus to find and comfort the lost. At the same time, we are sheep that need to be found. Jesus opens his loving heart to everyone, ready lead us home.
Who do you shepherd?
Who is your shepherd?
I think I see a shepherd!
Thank you to Sister Barbara Schiavoni, GNSH for the beautiful reflection on the Feast of the Sacred Heart. This reflection was given during a special liturgical celebration in D’Youville College’s Chapel in Buffalo.