Today is Good Shepherd Sunday and the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. We all have a vocation to holiness, then a calling to states of life such as marriage, the priesthood, consecrated life, or the single life. The World Day of Prayer for Vocations, however, specifically focusses on vocations to the ordained ministry and religious life in all of its forms.
In this post I would like to dwell on how Jesus the Good Shepherd helps us in all of our vocations, especially through our current circumstance of coping with the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.
Some of us may have found that our friends and family have either come closer to us during this global health crisis, or perhaps we have discovered the opposite. Perhaps we are alone, or feel that our communities, including our church connections, have fallen quiet. Support may be hard to find. This is surely a testing time when we realise the strength and truth of our relationships, and whether they are built on rock or sand to endure these troubling times. We must turn to the One who truly cares for us and upon whom we can always rely – Christ Himself.
In this world of silence we know that the only true consolation is that Jesus, our Eternal Friend, will never abandon us. The Divine Shepherd knows us and is with us during our struggles. He is the only one who truly understands us with compassion.
Look at Christ in the picture above. The little lamb is nestling contentedly in His arm because it knows that being next to Him is the only safe place in which to be. We must do likewise. With the chaos that continues around us, we too must focus our gaze on Jesus.
When the storms of this world rage, we human beings may feel like hiding away. We do not want to confront all of this pain – it is too much. We are afraid, and we are even too afraid to admit that we are afraid! But it is there. And it must be exposed to the light of Christ. It is important that we reach out. Where can we go but to Christ Himself? We may feel lost, scattered, and are trying to feel our way through the darkness. Have you felt like this in the past few weeks in particular? It is okay if the answer is yes.
Perhaps, like me, you have felt angry and depressed about what has been happening in our world. Why is this happening? Why was this virus not stopped earlier? Why so much death? When can we return to church again? When can we be free to move where we want? How long must we be without the Holy Eucharist? When will we see people again, away from a screen? Why so much silence around us? Where are our faithful friends? How long will this last? And so on.
Do we sound like scared little children? Yes. And where should scared children – little lambs – go? Into the arms of a loving Father.
Even though we are Catholics and may believe that we should be stronger than this, we are also tested as gold is tested in fire (1 Peter 1:7). We know that we are resurrection people who are meant to be filled with Easter joy, but we are also human! We are allowed to feel like humans! We need to give ourselves permission to acknowledge our sadness about the many people who have died, stand in solidarity with those who are sick or struggling, speak for the elderly who have been abandoned, or perhaps we are missing support from our own local communities and parishes. Many of us may also be feeling an immense weight of sadness about not being able to receive Jesus in the Holy Eucharist.
Allow yourself to feel these things. Allow yourself to express the emotions that God has given you – we are not robots!
Now more than ever before we need our priests and religious to support us and be good shepherds to us. We need to hear their voices! We need an army of both religious and lay people to come out to proclaim Christ and remind each other about Who He is – the Great Healer and Consoler. Did He not say several times in Scripture – do not be afraid? We may be quarantined or self-isolating, but we must not run away, hide, and protect ourselves. We can find other responsible ways to minister to each other.
Today I would like you to think differently – even a bit more radically – about what a true Good Shepherd looks like, especially in this time of pandemic. Consider what Jesus would do if He was physically on earth right now. How do you think He would demonstrate being a Good Shepherd?
I believe the articles below provide the answer. Please take some time to read some or all of them.
These wonderful priests and religious ventured out to minister to their people, even in environments of fear and death. Many died from the Coronavirus as a result, but what heroic shepherds! They surely have a place with Christ in heaven for their sacrifice. In addition to the medical professionals who are so rightly praised, and many other lay people, we must also thank these good shepherds. We need heroes like these:
- Pope’s secretary warns people will abandon Church if Church abandons them amid virus
- Despite lockdown, priests facing the risks to provide assistance to faithful
- As They Console Coronavirus’s Victims, Italy’s Priests Are Dying, Too
- Risking bodies to pray for souls, priests answer the call amid coronavirus
- Italian priest sacrifices his ventilator for younger patient then dies of coronavirus
- ‘It’s Like a Lifeline.’ How Religious Leaders Are Helping People Stay Connected in a Time of Isolation
Priests and religious, we need you! We thank you!