A shepherd may be knocking at your door!
Jeremiah 23:1-16; Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34
Last week Deacon McEnery told us about knocking on doors. We all had visions of Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons knocking on our doors. Most of us when we have experienced this usually turn off the lights and hide under the coffee table, or open the door and grin and bear it. Afterwards most of us are annoyed that we were disturbed…but then we begin to think about what Deacon mentioned last week. Why don’t we see Catholics going door to door? Why do we put evangelism so low down on our priority list? Like Deacon said, I too had never had a Catholic knock on my door.
This last Tuesday as I was walking out of the Church three men came up to me. The one in front told me “We are here to tell you about Jesus and that the Kingdom is near.” I noticed the Bible in his hand and I thought, “Oh boy, here we go…I’m about to be asked if I have been saved!” Then I noticed that his Bible said “New American Bible” on the side, the Catholic Bible! Then I noticed that all three of them were carrying the Liturgy of the Hours, the Catholic Divine office. I then could no longer hear what the man was saying over my own thoughts. I immediately thought “does Deacon McEnery have some direct line to God? Is he just trying to one up me?”
Well these men told an amazing story. The three of them, with the support of their parishes, decided to band together with nothing but their Bibles, breviaries and a small duffel bag and decided to canvas the area, visiting not lay people, but priests. They are knocking on the doors of rectories across the state to encourage the priests that they met. They go and share their stories of conversion and tell the priests that they are important and that the three of them will be praying for them.
After their talk, I invited them in and we sat down in the chapel and praised God by praying Midday Prayer. After prayer and discussion, I gave them my blessing and I bid them farewell. I closed the door behind greatly inspired.
I believe this encounter was God taking care of me. You see, I had been mulling over the readings for today and I couldn’t get a part of the reading from Jeremiah out of my head. In the context of the other readings, this passage is read today to remind us that God will always provide us shepherds, but that first part is hard to hear. Jeremiah says “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, say the Lord…You have scattered my sheep…but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.” That’s a direct warning to all clergy. God is watching us and will indeed punish those of us who deliberately mislead our people, of through our inaction or laziness allow wolfs to come among them. I truly believe that God sent these three men to me this week to remind me that I am not on my own, that there are people out there praying and helping our clergy.
When we step back and look at all of today’s readings, God tells us that He is our Shepherd and that he is watching out for us. In today’s Gospel when the people come searching for Jesus, “His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things.” Jesus still does this today, his Most Sacred Heart is always being poured out for us and he send shepherds our way to take care of us.
Some of the ways God takes care of us are visible. The Church which he gave us for our salvation is visible. We can see her bishops, priests and deacons, presided over by the Holy Father, there to shepherd us and provide us spiritual nourishment through the Sacraments. The Church hierarchy is the Lord’s response to our petitions. When reflecting on this Pope Francis said “In every age and in every place we shall receive this petition from the lips of the Church: give us a Bishop! The Holy People of God continue to speak: we need one who will watch over us from above; we need one who will see us with the fullness of God’s heart.” (Magnificat Vol. 15, No. 5, p. 169) God hears our need and sends these bishops.
God provides for us also in ways we don’t always see too. For instance, we are protected and provided for by our Guardian Angel. Many of remember reading the jobs of our Guardian Angles in the timeless Baltimore Catechism as the one who “help us by praying for us, by protecting us from harm and by inspiring us to do good.” (New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism (2011) No. 2, #43)
We may be tempted to think we don’t need a shepherd, we don’t need help, that we can do it on our own. After all, our culture values personal autonomy over everything else these days. Deep down, we know we can’t do this on our own. When tragic or hard things happen to people they are almost always comforted by a reading of today’s Psalm, Psalm 23. This psalm is a reflection on how good it is to have God looking out for you as your shepherd. You are protected from harm, reminded not to fear death, assured that you are spiritually fed by the Sacraments and assured of God’s never failing love.
We need shepherds, we need family, we need supernatural help, we need help in general, seen and unseen to make it to heaven. Today’s Gospel assures as that we are given these helps if we accept them. All around you are prayers lifting you up, hands extended in friendship and love, arms to help you when you fall and people to point out which road leads to Heaven. Rejoice knowing that God does not leave us as pitiful people without a shepherd, but people whose cup is overflowing with help and Graces, to us His chosen people.