16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)

by | Jul 22, 2018

Looking for Shepherds:

In much of Western society there is a crisis of authority nowadays. Merely being placed in charge no longer ensures unquestioning obedience. The ideal leader today is one who can win respect and generate trust, one with an obvious sense of responsibility, who can get things done while respecting other people’s dignity and feelings. Shepherds in faith are people of integrity who care for others (Jeremiah); people who help us follow the right path (Psalm), and show compassion toward others in their weakness (Gospel). The shepherd image does not apply only to bishops as the official “pastors” in succession to the apostles, or to the local pastors in the parish. The shepherd role applies in one way or another to all kinds of leadership, in the household and social spheres as well as in matters of faith. We are invited today by God’s word to examine what sort of leadership we ourselves provide for others.

The shepherds condemned by Jeremiah were the leaders who turned a blind eye and let abuses thrive. His message today might be to political figures, ministers and government officials at all levels, who have the task of keeping public order, defending the rights of citizens and promoting fairness for all, insofar as possible. The shepherd image suggests that authority is not mainly the power to impose rules. The shepherding role is one of service more than dominion. Its goal is to set a good direction and enable a community to live together in peace, where each individual has dignity and an equal chance of personal fulfilment.

While the term shepherd rightly applies to spiritual leaders, prelates can sometimes push the image too far, seeming to treat their people more like sheep to be driven than as intelligent human beings to be persuaded. In today’s world, the “Father knows best” attitude is not well received. As Pope Francis so effectively points out, our clergy cannot rule by formal decree but must try to win minds and hearts, and communicate an inspiring vision, suited to our times. They must trust the maturity of their people, and promote a sense of owning the Church we belong to.

Besides the official leaders of Church and State, many others must offer pastoral leadership at a local and domestic level. Parents and teachers are the most obvious examples of this. In practice it is they who help to develop a child’s character, laying the foundations for growth into adult maturity. They pass on values by which young people can live, and foster qualities that can grow over the years. For this they need the sensitivity and compassion shown by Jesus in today’s Gospel. “He had compassion for them and began to teach them many things.”

One day, 7-year-old Lucy asked her mom, “If everyone is my neighbor, how do I love them all?” Her mom explained: “Let’s say you’re going to the supermarket with two empty bags for groceries. A woman carrying a bag of oranges suddenly drops her bag, spilling them everywhere. You stop and give her one of your bags and help pick up her oranges. Everything you just did, Lucy, makes this upset woman your neighbor.” Her mother continued: “Giving her what she needed at a difficult moment: time, a bag, help and peace; you found a neighbor. And in that neighbor, you saw Jesus. When people need something and we give it to them, we find a neighbor!”

There are many ministries by which our parish is enriched – some of which require occasional participation, and others which entail regular service. One does not become a parishioner simply by attending Sunday Mass. Your involvement in one of these ministries and committee will not only enrich your life, but it will also vitalize the communion of faith we enjoy at our Catholic Church. I personally invite you to be member of any ministry that you are interested in:

Parish council, Liturgy commission, Eucharistic ministers, Lectors, servers, education commission/Faith formation, Rite of Christian initiation for adults (RCIA), Youth ministry, Building maintenance, Home-bound and outreach and other committee.

If you think that you are chosen for any of these ministries in our parish, please feel free to contact me or call the office. Let us pray that the good Lord help us with more shepherds after his own heart. Amen.

Fr. A. Francis HGN