Tag Archives: shepherds

Words of Spirit and Life

Plaque with the Calling of Saints Peter and Andrew, England, ca. 1160-80, Metropolitan Museum of Art

Feast of Saint Andrew

Romans 10:9-18; Matthew 4:18-22 

Brothers and sisters: If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved (Romans 10:9).

Not by our own strength alone can one confess the risen Christ, for no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3). 

In an age of mass media and globalization, Christ is drowned out in the cacophonous marketplace of ideas. Yet the lone voice of Isaiah proclaims on the first Monday of Advent, 

In days to come,
The mountain of the Lord’s house
shall be established as the highest mountain
and raised above the hills.
All nations shall stream toward it (Isaiah 2:2).

The mountain is Christ, write St. Augustine and St. Gregory the Great.1 The mountain that was plunged into the depths of hell and emerged victorious over sin and death—to this summit all nations and peoples aspire. 

An indistinct desire for the good has proliferated in multifarious meandering paths, religions  and philosophies from the dawn of conscious wonder. Christ, the Light of the world and desire of all nations, appeared without pomp or fanfare in swaddling clothes, yet drew the adoration of both shepherds and wise men from the East. Jews and Gentiles knelt before the vulnerable Divine Infant in silent awe. There is no distinction between Jew and Greek; the same Lord is Lord of all, enriching all who call upon him (Romans 10:12).

The ocean of the world teemed with fish of all colors, shapes and sizes made for the ocean of infinite love and mercy beyond death and destruction. 

But how can they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how can they believe in him of whom they have not heard? And how can they hear without someone to preach? And how can people preach unless they are sent? (Romans 10:14-15a) 

The Word made flesh called ordinary fishermen to be his mouthpiece: Their voice has gone forth to all the earth, and their words to the ends of the world (Romans 10:18; Psalm 19:4-5). 

“Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men” (Matthew 4:19). St. Andrew, whom we celebrate today, and his companions dropped their nets and perishable bait to cast the words of eternal life into the ocean of tears.

Your words, Lord, are Spirit and life (Psalm response from John 6:63).

-GMC

1 St. Augustine, Sermon 62A.3 and St. Gregory the Great, Forty Gospel Homilies 33.

Blaming Leaders

It’s easy to blame leaders, and we do it all the time. World leaders are speaking at the UN this week and some are easy targets. Anyone running for office in our country can expect a withering scrutiny. Church leaders aren’t immune either.

St. Augustine in our liturgy recently has a sermon on the Good Shepherd in which he warns church leaders not to lead the sheep astray but to be like Jesus.  When they are like him they are “in the one Shepherd, and in that sense they are not many but one. When they feed the sheep it is Christ who is doing the feeding.”

So pray for good leaders for our church, Augustine says:  “May it never happen that we truly lack good shepherds! May it never happen to us! May God’s loving kindness never fail to provide them!”

But the saint goes on to say we must do more than pray, we ourselves must be “good sheep,”  because “if there are good sheep then it follows that there are good shepherds, since a good sheep will naturally make a good shepherd.”

Is that something that applies to us as citizens of the United States? Are the leaders we blame mirrors of ourselves? Are we getting the leaders we deserve?  Add to a prayer for good leaders, a prayer for good citizens. God make us good citizens, and good leaders will come.

Wise as Doves

by Howard Hain

rembrandt-angel-appearing-to-the-shepherds-1634

Rembrandt, “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds”, 1634


Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

—Luke 2:8-9


Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.

Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!

Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.

But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it. If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord chose them to be present when He revealed His glory.

It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us just the kind of people to whom God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.

A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter to whom the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.

If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.

For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets—even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.


The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.”

—Luke, Chapter 2:10,16-18,20


 

Morning Thoughts: Wise as Doves

rembrandt-angel-appearing-to-the-shepherds-1634

Rembrandt, “The Angel Appearing to the Shepherds”, 1634

 .

Now there were shepherds in that region living in the fields and keeping the night watch over their flock. The angel of the Lord appeared to them and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were struck with great fear.

—Luke 2:8-9


.

Perhaps the scariest thing to those of us who cling tightly to the things of the world is to accept the job that the Lord assigns us.

Oh, how so many of us are so quick to long for greater adventure!

Yet, when it comes to those humble, little shepherds to whom the angel of the Lord appeared, we are perhaps even quicker to long to be one of them—sitting quietly upon a gentle hillside, effortlessly tending to a passive flock, while the always-full moon provides a soft, ever-so-appropriate illumination from above.

But we are liars. For there’s nothing less romantic in each one of our daily lives, or more mundane. We simply have to be honest, or at least consistent. It all depends on how we look at it. If we see the shepherds in such a delicate light then we also need to see ourselves in the same. For before the angel appears, the shepherds were hardly posing for picturesque landscapes. Perhaps it is for this very reason—their realness, their authenticity, their holy simplicity—that the Lord chose them to be present when He revealed His glory.

It is exciting. We have a wonderful choice, then. Either our “boring” lives make us just the kind of people to whom God prefers to reveal Himself, or our lives are a lot more “exciting” than we ever imagined. Either way, what is vital to making such a decision is true sincerity and genuine gratitude. We need to thank God for who He has made us, for where He has placed us, and for what type of task He has assigned us.

A faithful, humble heart dreams and believes and sees great things among the most ordinary circumstances. Just look at the young virgin and the upright carpenter to whom the shepherds “went in haste” to find in a stable, adoring a child born within the company of the “lowest” of men.

If we spend our time dreaming of being someone else, living somewhere else, and doing something else, we miss the opportunity of being exactly who God intends us to be—and when that happens—we are always in the wrong place, at the wrong time, and most tragically, doing that which matters very little.

For to be the first on the scene, the first to “lay hold”, the first to adore the New Born King, is as good as it gets—even for those whose “normal existence” isn’t standing around all alone—day after day in the scorching sun or biting cold, while picking fleas from matted-down fleece or scaring off hungry wolves.


.

The angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I proclaim to you good news of great joy that will be for all the people…”

So they went in haste and found Mary and Joseph, and the infant lying in the manger. When they saw this, they made known the message that had been told them about this child. All who heard it were amazed by what had been told them by the shepherds.

Then the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, just as it had been told to them.

—Luke, Chapter 2:10,16-18,20


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—Howard Hain

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Words Heal

Just read a review by Gary Wills of a book by Peter Brown about St. Augustine and other early saints. Augustine was someone who couldn’t live outside a community. He needed friends around him from his earliest years and later as a bishop lived in a community, because he appreciated  the help he got from others. It wasn’t that he needed an audience. He needed others to carry him along, to put up with him, because he was a sinner.

In a sermon in today’s liturgy of the hours, Augustine scolds the shepherds of the church for not befriending their flock. Their sheep want good pasture; they’re looking for healing. “You have failed to strengthen the weak,” the Lord says to them. They need shepherds, but do they also need friends?

Augustine turns to the  paralyzed man in the gospel. He needed friends to carry him to be healed, friends with faith in him, friends to bear his burden. They carry him up the roof and lower him down into the presence of Jesus. Yet, before Jesus says a word to the paralytic, did he hear from his friends, “Don’t be afraid?”

 

We are His Flock

 

Last Saturday I celebrated Mass in a parish whose pastor was retiring and a new one was coming in to take over. It was the Feast of Corpus Christi, a vivid reminder of the presence of Jesus Christ among us. He is our shepherd and we are his flock.

We’re very conscious today of human leaders, whether they are politicians, business leaders, bishops or pastors. We want them to keep things going, to solve problems and to lead us into the future. When things go wrong, they’re the first we blame. Often they are all we see.

But there is another who leads us. “We are his people, the flock of the Lord.” St. Augustine comments on this verse from the psalms:

”  In this song we have declared that we are his flock, the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hands… You are my sheep, he says. Even in the midst of this life of tears and tribulations, what happiness, what great joy it is to realise that we are God’s flock! To him were spoken the words: You are the shepherd of Israel. Of him it was said: The guardian of Israel will not slumber, nor will he sleep. He keeps watch over us when we are awake; he keeps watch over us when we sleep.

A flock belonging to a man feels secure in the care of its human shepherd; how much safer should we feel when our shepherd is God. Not only does he lead us to pasture, but he even created us.”The words we have sung contain our declaration that we are God’s flock: For he is the Lord our God who made us. He is our God, and we are the people of his pasture and the sheep of his hands.

Human shepherds did not make the sheep they own; they did not create the sheep they pasture. Our Lord God, however, because he is God and Creator, made for himself the sheep which he has and pastures. No one else created the sheep he pastures, nor does anyone else pasture the sheep he created.

“The Lord is my shepherd,” we say. And he shepherds the world as well.