Sunday Reflection - Fourth Sunday of Easter
Posted: Sat, 07 May 2022 09:53
My Lord God, I have no idea where I am going. I do not see the road ahead of me. I cannot know for certain where it will end. Nor do I really know myself, and the fact that I think that I am following your will does not mean that I am actually doing so. But I believe that the desire to please you does in fact please you. And I hope I have that desire in all that I am doing. I hope that I will never do anything apart from that desire. And I know that if I do this you will lead me by the right road though I may know nothing about it. Therefore, will I trust you always though I may seem to be lost and in the shadow of death. I will not fear, for you are ever with me, and you will never leave me to face my perils alone. (Thoughts in Solitude)
This reflection from Thomas Merton reveals the deep level of trust in God that Christians strive to emulate, as we follow the Good Shepherd. It is a faith that we have tried to follow over these past two and a half difficult years. It is the trust shown by the prophets and saints in their desire to follow the will of God. It is a trust that lies at the heart of good communication, which enables us to listen to what God is asking of each of us. Today are we truly listening to the invitation that God is asking of you. Sometimes, over the many distractions of life, we really need to make an extra special effort—today is that day to spend time listening to the voice of the Lord. We need to remind ourselves that we need to realise that we are fully known by God. With God there is no need to put on a mask or pretend that you are different—God calls you by name to be yourself. It is in that complete trust that you will achieve wonderful things.
In our Salesian parishes across the country, you will be lucky to meet with some of our younger Salesians who will talk about their vocation story. These young men come from across the globe and share the Salesian vocation of your parish priest or the Salesian teachers that you have known. They all have the inspirational vision of Don Bosco: his care of youngsters in nineteenth century Turin is still practiced in our modern age—true loving kindness is never out of date. His insights and educational theory are as relevant today as they have ever been. He shared the pastoral gospel vision of Catholic teachers such as Elizabeth Prout, John Baptist De La Salle, and Nano Nagle. These great heroes of Catholic schools share a fundamental respect for their students that can be summed up in the wise philosophy of Wes Angelozzi:
Go and love someone exactly as they are. And then watch how quickly they transform into the greatest, truest version of themselves. When one feels seen and appreciated in their own essence, one is instantly empowered.
The journey of Jesus with his disciples to Emmaus shows that he loves and accepts them 'exactly where they' were. We might want our parishioners and students to be further down the road of faith than they are, but we have to meet people where they are comfortable. In this way, they can feel valued, appreciated, and empowered. Your priest is somebody's son, coming from an incarnate reality of good and bad. It is pointless to complain about parish closures, cutting back on mass times and unavailability of your clergy, unless you are prepared to help. As a Church we need to be open to all making their contribution as our initiation into the Church demands. Clerical domination cannot be part of the modern vision of Church. Today is a call to action: what is God calling you to? The Synodical process that we are involved in is that opportunity to ask crucial questions. Where are the new generation of Religious and priests coming from? Should ministry to opened up? How can we effectively be a Church of true service in 2022? What lessons have we learnt during the lockdown?
The promotion of vocations to priesthood and religious life is something we all need to be involved in. As parents, do you encourage your children to, at least, think about this vocation? Is it fair on the Church in the developing world for us to depend on new priests, sisters and brothers coming from Africa or Asia? Surely, we have to do our part here in the West? Pope Francis is clear that we need really good shepherds, especially in an atmosphere of mistrust brought about by the clerical abuse crisis. The vocations call is, according to the Holy Father, an invitation for good pastors to step forward—they certainly need our prayer and encouragement:
A good shepherd is distinguished by its flock. A flock flourishes because the shepherd listens, guides and cares for the sheep. The sheep entrust themselves only to those shepherds who are similar to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. In this respect, the flock never errs. Only those shepherds who are like Jesus elicit confidence in their flock. Jesus's style must be the pastor's style. There is no other.
Author: Fr Gerry O'Shaughnessy SDB