The Good Shepherd


Letters from a Pastor to His People- May 3, 2020

Dear Parishioners,

I have a small statue of the Good Shepherd on my bookshelf in my office.  Someone gave this to me when I became pastor.  It is about eight inches or so tall, made of white plaster, and depicts a shepherd (not necessarily Christ) carrying a sheep over his shoulders.  It's an image I'm sure you all are familiar with.

I remember as a child having sports trophies in my room at home.  They were a symbol of pride; a reminder, for instance, of how my baseball team won the championship.  They also served to motivate me: to win again next year and obtain another trophy.  Or, I remember, seeing around our living room where our piano was little statues of Mozart and Beethoven.  These were musicians who delighted our souls, reminded us of the beauty of music, and whom we sought even to emulate.

Well, now, I don't have a lot of stuff (other than books), and I don't have many images in my office or rectory room.  The ones I do are chosen specifically to either inspire me or assure me of prayers.  Besides a crucifix, I have an image of Our Lady of Humility, an image of Saint John Vianney (the patron saint of parish priests), an image of St. Therese of Lisieux, a statue of Saint James, and the Good Shepherd statue.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd (cf. John 10:14) and I try to live my life like Christ.  This is the one individual we all should copy and emulate.  Jesus takes care of the sheep.  That's his one task as shepherd.  He is not looking to shear the sheep or eat them or really even make a profit off them, like the owner or consumer would.  Jesus cares only for our well-being.  Look at the last line of the Gospel: "I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10). 

Boy, if there was ever a scripture verse to memorize, that would be the one.  It all boils down to that: the abundance of life.  When we follow Christ and we allow him to be our shepherd, we have the fullness of life.  Or, read the great Psalm 23: "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want; in verdant pastures he gives me repose."

The statue in my office reminds me that Jesus, the Good Shepherd, is assisting me—carrying me, in fact—and that if I stay close to him, my life will be fulfilling.  As I work in my office and go about my duties as pastor, I am confident Christ is with me, leading and protecting me.  And the statue inspires me to live similarly as a good shepherd, caring, first and foremost, for people and their souls.  Buildings, programs, groups and committees all come second to people.

What images or objects do you have you in your life?  Perhaps you can take stock, on this Good Shepherd Sunday, on what serves as motivation or consolation for you.  And might I suggest, if you don't already, you obtain, or at least imagine having, a statue of the Good Shepherd somewhere in your house or office?  That simple statue or image can remind you of God's protecting presence in your life and inspire you, first and foremost, to be a good shepherd to others.  We need the Good Shepherd now more than ever.

Yours in Christ,

Fr. James

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