This Sunday is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. It’s a day we set aside to pray especially for vocations to the priesthood and the religious life.
Monasticism has been described as the forest of the faith. Just as trees take in carbon dioxide and breathe oxygen into the air, so the religious communities of our world pray on it’s behalf, cleansing the world through prayer and bringing all of humanity into greater communion with the Father.
This, lofty as it sounds, is our vocation here at MSJ. Like all religious communities, we live a hidden life of silent praise for God. Our entire life is tricky to pin down, our purpose difficult to keep up with. But it is this: to find communion, and by doing so to raise up a community of love for all to emulate. We do this through normality.we are not ringed with halos or living on mystical summits. We are a group of men who have a common aim, and who live together to make that aim easier to attain.
It can feel, sometimes, as though what we are raising up is a cross, something that burdens us, something with snagging splinters and a bad press in today’s world. We live in the wake of terrible abuse that has ruined the lives of individuals. When many look at us, that can sadly be what they see. This, we can picture, is a reference to the wolf in today’s Gospel, the wolf that scatters the flock. The wolf is not outside the Church. It is embedded deep within it. And it is there, still, that wolf. Yes, even in religious life.
We monks and nuns are called to raise up the cross of humility and love, to raise it high by the way that we live. People shall see us: not our logo or our arty photos, but US, who we are, how we treat others, how willing and ready we are to do what is right and just, how important we value integrity, even if it means admitting that we have hurt others, and making amends with our whole hearts.
We are called to be the good shepherd, in the image of He whom we follow with our entire selves. It sounds easy enough, but it is not. Not always. But, when we struggle, there is the Gospel to bring us back to ourselves. Christ said this to us: ‘I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.’ We are those sheep, and it is our life’s work to live in that same image, to be the shepherd that loves beyond our selfish and human boundaries, to make our lives into a beacon of love, a lighthouse if you will, that brings the love and the healing of Christ home, deep into to the hearts of those who hurt.
How shall we be doing this, today?
A reading from the holy Gospel according to John
Glory to you, O Lord
The good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
‘I am the good shepherd:
the good shepherd is one who lays down his life for his sheep.
The hired man, since he is not the shepherd
and the sheep do not belong to him,
abandons the sheep and runs away
as soon as he sees a wolf coming,
and then the wolf attacks and scatters the sheep;
this is because he is only a hired man
and has no concern for the sheep.
I am the good shepherd;
I know my own and my own know me,
just as the Father knows me
and I know the Father;
and I lay down my life for my sheep.
And there are other sheep I have
that are not of this fold,
and these I have to lead as well.
They too will listen to my voice,
and there will be only one flock,
and one shepherd.
The Father loves me,
because I lay down my life
in order to take it up again.
No one takes it from me;
I lay it down of my own free will,
and as it is in my power to lay it down,
so it is in my power to take it up again;
and this is the command I have been given by my Father.’
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.