CALLED TO BE EFFECTIVE SHEPHERDS OF GOD
Aurora, Colorado Shooting
16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, YEAR B
We all have heard about what happened early Friday morning (July 20, 2012) in Aurora, Colorado about a massacre killing 12 people and injuring 58 others. Our prayer goes out especially to the families of the victims. The incident was horrible indeed. The motives behind the shooting still remains a mystery as we speak, but one thing is for sure, a lot of people have been hurt: families, relatives, and friends of the victims. As I read the news online, I cannot but wonder, is this reality? Or just like the movie that those people were watching, was it plain fiction or fantasy? People nowadays flock at cinemas watching movies about heroes trying to escape from the present world. But if there’s one good thing I realized from the incident, it is that we cannot get away from reality. After a wonderful fictional movie, we go out of the movie house facing what’s TRUE and what’s REAL and not otherwise. Question is, do our hearts respond to reality or are we too caught up with sheer fantasy?
The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time allows us to look at ourselves as potential “Shepherds” of the Church. Yes, priests are “shepherds” as they are ordained in the sense of ministerial priesthood. But God has appointed ALL of US, as baptized Catholics by virtue of our baptism in the common priesthood, to be “shepherds” too. As shepherds, we are called to respond to present needs. We are called to face the reality of a seemingly “cruel” or “horrible” world. But, how can we become effective shepherds of God?
First, we can be effective shepherds by the GRACE of GOD. The Catechism of the Catholic Church describes grace in this way, “Grace is favor, the free and undeserved help that God gives us to respond to his call to become children of God, adoptive sons, partakers of the divine nature and of eternal life.” (CCC 1996) Last week, I mentioned about baptism through which we become children of God and hence, the mission to live up to it honored by such divine privilege. That which makes it possible, however, is through GRACE. Each day, we are confronted with difficulties that are at times so hard to bear; difficulties that impede us from fulfilling our duties as shepherds of God. It is only through God’s grace that we are able to overcome those difficulties. The grace of God is our “power source” which gives us strength in times of weakness. When St. Paul exclaims, “It is when I am weak, that I am strong” two Sundays ago, he was not talking about his own personal strength. He was in fact, talking about the strength that comes from the grace of God.
It is said that Michael Faraday (British scientist), an early pioneer of electromagnetic current, once addressed a convocation of scientists. For an hour, he held the audience spellbound with his lecture on the nature of the magnet. After he had finished, he received a thundering ovation. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, stood to congratulate him. The applause thundered again. Just as quickly, a deadened silence pervaded the audience. Faraday had left. It was the hour of a mid-week prayer service in a little church of which he was a member.
Do we have the same commitment? If there is one good reason why we spend at least one hour each week to attend a Sunday Mass, it is no other than the desire to receive the grace God through the Eucharist. Other than an obligation, the Eucharist gives us the supernatural help we need to fulfill our duties ahead of us acknowledging God’s greatness and our dependence on Him.
Second, by fulfilling our tasks of “teaching” and “feeding.” Jesus as the Good Shepherd showed us the way towards the Father. He was willing to lay down his life for his sheep. Shepherding in the Gospel of John is not by ruling. Rather, the shepherd is expected to lead the sheep out to the pastures so they can eat. Teaching and feeding had always been two poles of Jesus’ mission. There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. In like manner, Christians must also display the compassion of Jesus by meeting the social and material needs of others in our works of charity as individual Christians and as a parish community.
A story from the life of Mother Teresa shows her love for the lonely and unwanted people, the “sheep without a shepherd,” who, while materially well-off, are sometimes “the poorest of the poor.” On one occasion, she visited a well-run nursing home, where good food, medical care and other facilities were offered to the elderly. As she moved among the old people, she noticed that none of them smiled unless she touched them and smiled at them first. She also noticed that many of them kept glancing expectantly towards the door while listening to her. When she asked one of the nurses why this was so, she was told: “They are looking for a visit from someone related to them. But, except for an occasional visit, birthday gift or a “get-well” card, this never happens.”
Do we know of anybody, who’s in the same position as the elderly that Mother Teresa visited? Jesus invites us, in today’s Gospel, to show concern, mercy and compassion for such sheep without a shepherd.
Lastly, by following the path of our TRUE SHEPHERD, JESUS CHRIST. He said, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.” Therefore, to be shepherd like Christ is to lead, to empower, to love, and to die. We verify this in Jesus himself, the Good Shepherd and Jesus expects the Shepherds of today to lead his flock and to do as He did.
Let us look into ourselves and see in us the potential of becoming a “Shepherd of God.” Yes, priests are shepherds, but we too, Catholics and Christians in general, are being called to the sublime task of shepherding. The grace of God is gratuitously given to us. Let us make use of such gifts by teaching and feeding our brothers and sisters in need.
In a special way, let us include in our prayers the victims of the Colorado shooting and their families. May they find peace in God in these trying times. May God send and inspire “good shepherds” in their midst who would step up and help those in dire need of support and assistance.
Last night, the names of the victims were established and were made public. Of the 12 people who died, I was struck by one of the victims. Her name is Jessica Ghawi, an aspiring sportscaster, who survived the Eaton Mall Center shooting in Toronto. She wrote in her blog about that incident:
"I was shown how fragile life was on Saturday. I saw the terror on bystander's faces. I saw the victims of a senseless crime. I saw lives change. I was reminded that we don't know when or where our time on earth will end. When or where we will breathe our last breath."
True indeed, our time here on earth is only fleeting. But it is a GIFT and therefore PRECIOUS. Should we live our lives FACING REALITY squarely? Or should we live our lives BELIEVING in sheer fantasy?