Fr. Rodrigue Azanmasso, CJM
Humanity in general, and the church have given rise to people with ordinary or extraordinary generativity. We have certainly experienced (or heard about) people, with ordinary talents who lived extraordinarily, the virtues they were (are) endowed with. They were (are), those people with a shepherd’s heart and in them we can see a glimpse of the Shepherd himself, that is, Jesus-Christ our Lord.
One important aspect of the liturgy of this Sunday is a beautiful invitation to all (laity and clergy), but to the clergy in a particular way, to have the heart of a shepherd, to be like God himself, the Good Shepherd.
In effect, shepherding others is a great responsibility and in the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah uttered a quite severe sentence toward those appointed shepherds to lead the people of God, Israel: ‘Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered. The prophet foretold the advent of the Good Shepherd himself, the one who will reign as true king and be wise, practicing honesty and integrity in the land, and like that Good and true Shepherd, the Lord God promised: I will raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them; no fear, no terror for them anymore; not one shall be lost.
God’s promise was fulfilled in his beloved Son Jesus-Christ and after him in all those who have been chosen, and are continuously being called to consecrate themselves to the noble role of shepherding God’s people. Being a shepherd (a pastor) according to the heart of God (a sentence very dear to Saint John Eudes), is what is expected from all those with the responsibility of guiding the people of God. According to Saint John Eudes, a pastor (shepherd) according to the heart of God, is a burning and shining lamp, placed on the lampstand of the church: ardent before God, shining before men; ardent by his love of God, shining by his charity for the neighbor; ardent by his inner perfection, shining by the holiness of his life; ardent by the fervor of his continual prayer before God for the needs of his people, shining through the preaching of the divine word.
This image of the Shepherd according to the heart of God is fully and perfectly noticeable in Jesus as he is portrayed in the gospel: So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length. This is one of the very images of the shepherd according to the heart of God, and Saint John Eudes added that the priest is a living image of Jesus Christ in this world, and of Jesus-Christ watching, praying, preaching, catechizing, sweating, crying, going from town to town and from village to village, suffering, agonizing dying and sacrificing himself for the salvation of all the souls created in his image and likeness.
What is said of the clergy is also valid for the laity because, all through their baptism are called to be a living image of Jesus, in other words, called to be saints as pope Francis said in Gaudete et Exsultate : the call to holiness is present in various ways from the very first pages of the Bible.
In our very demanding current world where our faith is constantly questioned and challenged, may we become more and more true image of Jesus-Christ.