Today is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. We hear from John’s gospel about Jesus, the Good Shepherd. While in the Holy Land a few years back, I visited with the monks at the Church of the Good Shepherd. They talked about the life of a shepherd. They are willing to risk their lives for their sheep. The sheep come to know and trust the sound of their voice. They do not lead the sheep but follow from behind gently guiding and directing them, making sure they do not stray too far off course, and yet also, letting the sheep find their way. The shepherd has ‘their back’ and is always there for each of them. This is how Jesus leads us as well.
As Vincentians, we are called to be a shepherd for those Jesus brings before us. As their shepherd, we listen for the guidance of our Shepherd that we might help others find their way in life. We help them to come to know the Good Shepherd and to trust in His will for them. Through our actions, through our words, through the comfort of our voice, we are called to ‘have their backs’ as Jesus has ours. Do I bring comfort to those I minister to? Do I guide them from behind, letting them lead but not letting them stray? Do they come to see the Good Shepherd through my presence?
Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd in whom I trust. Help me to see in you the model of my ministry to others. Help me to never violate their trust in me, always caring for them and putting their needs first. Give me the courage, the patience and the passion to follow your will for myself and those I minister to, helping me to allow them to feel your comfort and love. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
We are in the midst of the Resurrection stories. Peter offers the opportunity of conversion – simply seeking the forgiveness of the Lord and changing our hearts – to the very people who put Jesus to death. In the gospel, the disciples cannot get over what has taken place. Just before this reading they say “Weren’t our hearts burning!” Excitement and opportunity abounds – forgiveness is in the air – evangelization is afoot. There is a great passion and zeal for Christ and all He offers. Passion comes out of the scripture and is lived through action. Hearing is turned into loving. That loving is manifested in mercy and forgiveness. But with so much happening, it is also important to discern – to take time to try and understand what has taken place.
As Vincentians, we are called to such zeal and passion. We have heard and embraced the love of Jesus in scripture and seen it in the faces of the poor. Through our conference meetings, we are called to sit down in community sharing our passion with one another. We discern all we have seen and heard in our visits and what it means for us. Can we set aside our judgments? Do we have mercy and forgiveness for our clients? Do we seek their forgiveness and mercy towards us? Do we offer it to one another in brotherhood and sisterhood? Are our conference meetings truly a place of growth in holiness, discernment of all we have seen and heard, and a rekindling of our passion and zeal for Christ?
Lord Jesus, grace me with a thirst for you and a passion in all I do. Give me the virtue of zeal that I might vigorously fight for justice, mercy, compassion, and love for each of the people you bring before me. Help me to passionately make your presence known to them through my actions. Help me to enter into conference meetings with a heart open to growth and love. Allow me to be inspired – and to inspire others. Let my heartburn with your love! We pray all of this in your name. Amen
This week we celebrate the Octave of Easter concluding with Divine Mercy Sunday. It is, in effect a continuous celebration of God’s mercy which is ever present and results in pure joy and eternal hope. This past week I went to see the movie, I Can Only Imagine. If you have not seen it- go! It is the story of Bart Millard and how he came to write this song. It is a song of forgiveness, a song of redemption, a song of hope and a song of joy. More importantly, it is a story of how God’s mercy and love come to us in many forms and ways. In our darkest moments, the moments of our greatest fear or despair, God provides to us what we need, when we need it. We must be paying attention though, so we can latch onto that which he provides to us. At Easter, God fulfills his greatest act of mercy and love through the sacrifice of his son. Divine Mercy Sunday – which was given to us by Christ himself – celebrates and recognizes the immense mercy poured out on us by Jesus.
As Vincentians, we need to recognize that we are partakers in that mercy. We are both recipients and providers. Each of us has had those dark moments when God has reached out to us in unexpected ways and through people or events we did not anticipate. But He also uses each of us to be His vehicle of mercy. Every time God brings someone before us who is facing one of their dark moments, we become His mercy to them. Do I allow God to place an attitude of mercy, compassion and forgiveness in me? Do I, through my patience, my presence and my persistence help them to find their path forward? Do I engender in them a sense of hope?
Lord Jesus, Alleluia, I am surrounded by your Glory! As I stand in your presence, let me fall to my knees, let me sing Hallelujah, let your mercy and love show through me! Let my presence help others to see your face. Grant me the patience, the kindness, and the love to remove the darkness in the lives of others through the actions you lead me to. We pray all of this in your name. Amen
(Holy Thursday – the institution of the Eucharist – through to Evening Prayer on Sunday) we are made present at these events. When we read the Passion – first on Palm Sunday and again on Good Friday – we hear and say those horrible words, “Crucify him, crucify him!” I find these words so challenging to say. It is easy to think of the horrible act of the Jewish leaders having done this to Jesus. But as I contemplate on the events, I realize that I drove the nail into his hands and feet, I put him on that cross, I was a part of the chorus shouting crucify him just as surely as his executioners were. For my sins are a part of the blood he shed. I was complicit. But on Easter Sunday, his grace, his compassion, his mercy and his forgiveness wash over me and through me offering me redemption and salvation if only I will accept him, embrace him and love him. It is the greatest gift ever given and never ‘earned.’
As a Vincentian, this week reminds me of both the suffering our Lord endured for us as well as the unconditional love and mercy he has for each of us. It is a gift that I can in a very small way share with those who I encounter who are in need. Our Lord offers this gift to us as our path forward back to the wholeness of salvation. He loves, nurtures and feeds us along the way, showing us the light.
Do we do the same with the gifts we offer to others? Do we offer assistance with loving care in a fashion that allows those we help to find wholeness again? Do we in kind and gentle ways illuminate the path forward? Do we equip them, walk with them and show them the hope that is possible?
Lord Jesus, I thank you for the grace of your sacrifice for me. I love you Lord and an sorry for ever having offended you. I ask you to take my hand and lead me home. Give me the grace Lord to reach out as well, offering my hand in help to others. Allow me to accept their suffering as my suffering that I may walk with them and lead them with kindness, gentleness and mercy to greater hope for their lives. We pray all of this in your name. Amen