Besides from being male, Catholic and loved the world over the Pope and I have other things in common (OK; maybe I’m not loved the world over). Recently I bought a cross that, well frankly, I thought was quite practical. I have high standards like that. Unbeknownst to me, it is a replica of the cross Pope Francis wears. Even then I didn’t realize until recently when looking at a picture of our pontiff and thinking, “I’ve seen that cross somewhere before”.
More appropriately applied to our Pope this cross depicts Jesus as the Good Shepherd with his flock. Francis, as the current Vicar of Christ, is our shepherd today. But what does this mean, to be a shepherd?
This Sunday’s gospel speaks to us directly, the faithful ones of Christ. We are the ones who recognize his voice and follow him. He continues to guide us, call us, direct us to himself who is additionally the gate to heaven through whom we must enter.
As per usual there is so much to be taken from scripture, and this is no exception. It speaks of leadership, of discernment, of faithful obedience, of action, of life to the full, of self sacrifice. It is no wonder that, if your parish is anything like mine, there will be seminarians speaking at masses to promote the priesthood.
All of these attributes should be seen in a faithful priest for he is our shepherd on the local level as a representative of the bishop and as a representative of Christ for he is in persona Christi.
Though not having the unique sacramentality of the priest this passage speaks to me as a faithful Catholic and married father of two. For I, too, in a separate but no less necessary way am a shepherd for my family. As a leader I need to also be discerning, obedient, active, full of life, and self sacrificial. And I do this for my family, my children, myself.
While I wear the cross of the Christ the Good Shepherd like Pope Francis, I am reminded of the necessity to both be a sheep and a shepherd, to be guided and to guide. From Francis the Pope to I the peasant we are all shepherds: we each have a flock, we each represent Christ in a unique and necessary way, we each actively strive for life in the full through self sacrifice which is found only in faithful obedience to Christ.