Today is a packed day. Not only is it the Fourth Sunday of Easter, but it is also the Feast of Saints Philip and James. And on top of these two, it is Good Shepherd Sunday, the day when we pray for vocations. And so I want to focus on the theme of vocations and priests today.
The readings today are the basis of the Church’s reflection and understanding that she is the flock of Christ and, therefore, that Christ Himself is the Good Shepherd and the gate through which we must pass through to have eternal life. In fact, the Lord says that the sheep do not listen to the voice of the stranger, of the thief. “They will not follow the stranger, they will run away from him.” St John Chrysostom says that the thief is the Antichrist and the false prophets, those who falsely claim to be from God and steal souls from God’s flock, the Church.
Indeed, one doesn’t have to look far to realize that not all clergy speak the truth. Some clergy preach erroneous moral theology or do not understand the liturgy as worship and sacrifice, instead seeing the Mass as a social gathering. Some even say that this time of pandemic with televised masses is the “new norm”, saying it is a good thing because the people can attend mass in their pajamas. Now, by virtue of their ordination, the priest and bishop is objectively configured to Christ the High Priest. Nothing can take that away, not even sin or error. So what do we do when faced with such clergy?
The answer is to pray for them. We should always pray for our priests and bishops, asking the Lord to give them the wisdom and courage to lead us through the gate who is the Lord Jesus. We have to keep in mind that passing through the gate means passing through the cross. St Augustine says one enters through Christ by imitating Christ’s suffering and humility “so as to feel and know, that if God became man for us, man should not think himself God, but man.” Thus, in order to save us, the priest Himself must go through the cross; for how can he lead his flock unless he goes with them?
Therefore, Peter’s response to the crowds on Pentecost is the “mission statement” of the Church: “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.” What the priest offers, what Philip and James offered to the world in union with Peter, was the gift of the Holy Spirit Who allows us to be sons and daughters of God in the Son of God. Through sin we are orphans; through grace we are adopted children of God in Christ Jesus.
So pray for our priests and bishops. Yes, they are our shepherds charged with leading us to God. Yes, they have the responsibility to proclaim the authentic Gospel of Christ. And yes, some of them stray from their mission. But we shouldn’t become bitter and spiteful of these priests. Rather, we should pray for them because they are shepherds who will have to render an account to the Good Shepherd. Beg the Lord to send us shepherds with the zeal of Saints Philip and James who preached the Gospel to the point of martyrdom, and who understood that it was not they themselves who save souls, but Christ, who calls men to share in His mission, united with the apostles, of bearing “our sins in his body upon the cross, so that, free from sin, we might live for righteousness.”
Joseph Yuson – St. Joseph Seminary, Edmonton, Alberta
Fot. Jaka Skrlep /Unsplash.com