Friday, 25 September 2009

"All good shepherds are in the One Shepherd."

With yesterday's Office of Readings we came to the end of a series of thirteen extracts from the Sermon on the Shepherds by St. Augustine of Hippo. He was not talking about the shepherds who went to Bethlehem to adore the Christ Child, but about Church leaders, notably bishops. As a bishop himself, over past days, he has trembled in his shoes at his responsibility and he has castigated bad shepherds who are concerned with their own good, their own power, their own opinion and their own voice. They, he says, are the ones who kill the sheep, even the ones who are trying to be good. The extracts have not been comfortable reading. With every year that passes they become more uncomfortable.

"Surely if there are good sheep, there are good shepherds too, for good shepherds are made from good sheep. But all good shepherds are in the one, are all one reality. Let them feed the sheep - it is Christ who feeds them. The friends of the bridegroom do not speak with their own voice, but greatly rejoice because of the bridegroom's voice. So he is feeding the sheep when they feed them; and he says, 'I feed' since in them is his voice, his love. When he entrusted his sheep to Peter, as one to another, he wished to make him one with himself, and so to entrust the sheep to him as to be himself the head, while Peter assumed the figure of the body, that is of the Church, that like bridegroom and bride they might be two in one flesh.

"What, then, does he first say to Peter, in order to entrust the sheep to him yet avoid entrusting them as if to another? 'Peter, do you love me?' And he answered, 'I do love you.' And again, 'Do you love me?' And he answered, 'I do love you.' And a third time, 'Do you love me?' And he answered 'I do love you.' He makes sure of love so as firmly to establish unity. So he, the one shepherd, feeds his sheep in these shepherds, and they in the one.

"So let them all be in the one shepherd, and speak with the one shepherd's voice, for the sheep to hear, and to follow their shepherd, not any at random, but the one. All should in him speak with the one voice, and not with different voices. 'I beseech you brethren, that you all say the same thing, and there be no divisions among you.' Let the sheep hear this voice, cleared of all division and cleansed of all heresy, and let them follow their shepherd as he says, 'Those who are my sheep hear my voice and follow me.' " Saint Augustine of Hippo

Pope Benedict to bishops who have been ordained during the last year. Castel Gandolfo Monday Sept. 21, 2009.
"The imitation of Jesus the Good Shepherd is, for every priest, the obligatory path for their own santification and the essential condition for exercising the pastoral ministry responsibly. If this is true for priests, it is even more so for us, dear brother bishops....What is more of the essential tasks of the bishop is precisely to help priests, by example and with fraternal support, to follow their vocation faithf ully, and to work with enthusiasm and love in the Lord's vineyard......................A particular mission for bishops is to feed the spiritual life of priests, to foster in them harmony between prayer and the apostolate, looking at the example of Jesus and of the Apostles, whom He called first of all 'to be with Him'.

"A lot of work tends to absorb them (priests and bishops) continually and totally. Nevertheless, attention to the problems of every day and the initiatives directed to leading men on the way of God, must never distract us from our profound personal union with Christ. To be available to people should not diminish or obfuscate our availability to the Lord. The time that the priest and bishop dedicate to God in prayer is always the best employed, because prayer is the soul of pastoral activity."

Before concluding, His Holiness again encouraged a profound Eucharistic life, devotion to the Divine Office, Lectio Divina, and the Rosary. Referring to the Year of the Priest and its patron he said, that it was through the Word and the Sacraments that St. Jean Vianney edified his people and was able to sow the love of God in Ars.

The Holy Father's words came in the middle of the thirteen day period of readings from St. Augustine. They fed this sheep with hope, and renewed her conviction that our chief shepherd Benedict is indeed 'in the One Shepherd'.

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