Benedictine Spirituality Christ Eastertide Good Shepherd Gospel Lectio Divina Scripture Uncategorized

Good Shepherd Sunday

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As we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday I’m reflecting this image from today’s gospel:

“The good shepherd lays down his life for his sheep.”

As Father Denis McBride’s reflects the Good Shepherd presents a model of leadership based on “physical involvement and self-sacrificial love.” The leadership of the Good Shepherd is inclusive; he abandons no one. He gently draws anyone who strays or is excluded back into the community.

This model contains a challenge for us, Fr Denis carries on:

“The good shepherd challenges our own way of leaving people for lost: “I have come to seek out and save the lost.” Probably all of us know two or three people who have lost their sense of belonging, who feel they have no community to belong to.”

His words raise the question of who we allow to be lost. The harsh circumstances that have become normalised in the past few years have pushed more and more people to the margins. Our modern way of living leaves many people excluded, marginalised, judged and excluded, both in society and in our churches.

The call of the Good Shepherd compels us to become aware of those people. It compels us to risk reaching out and finding ways of welcoming them back in, however uncomfortable and costly that might feel.

So this Sunday’s gospel comes with a very particular call to us Christians to look for those who are marginalised by and within our church communities. The Good Shepherd challenges us to seek out those people, asking what they need, showing them they are welcome and leading them back into the community.

As we move through Eastertide where are you being invited to reach out to those on the margins?

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Christ the King

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The feast of Christ the King, is a bit of a challenge. It’s impossible to separate it from our earthly experience of rulers, royal or otherwise. At best that can leave us ambivalent about it. As I reflect on the readings it’s clear that Jesus offers a different model of leadership and a kingdom vastly different from any we’ve ever experienced. Ezekiel uses the image of a shepherd who cares for all the sheep, regardless of circumstances:

“I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray, bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them all.”

St Paul takes up the theme, assuring the Corinthians that the risen Christ will draw all people with him into the new life of resurrection. In the gospel Jesus explains just how different his kingdom will be, showing us again a ruler like no earthly ruler. Christ the King has no interest in the status, wealth or power of his followers. Instead he is concerned about how the poorest and most needy in society are nurtured and cared for:

“I was hungry and you gave me food; I was thirsty and you gave me drink; I was a stranger and you made me welcome…”

Jesus makes the real challenge very clear, to be part of his Kingdom we need commit to living by its’ values. He asks us to reflect on how we treat the poor, the hungry, the strangers that we encounter in our lives telling us:

“I tell you solemnly, in so far as you did this to one of the least of these sisters or brothers of mine, you did it to me.”

At the end of the liturgical year Jesus challenges us to reflect on the way we treat one another and to ask ourselves how well that matches with the values of his Kingdom.

Where are you being called to shape your life by the values of Christs’ Kingdom today?

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Bearers of Good News

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In today’s gospel Jesus commissions the 12 Apostles, giving them authority and sending them out to proclaim the Good News of the Kingdom of heaven. He says to them:

“Go to the lost sheep of the House of Israel. And as you go, proclaim that the Kingdom of heaven is close at hand.”

His words bring to mind the image of the good Shepherd, calling his sheep by name, seeking out those who are lost to bring them back into the fold of his loving care. I imagine that as the apostles listened to his words they were very aware of the people around them who felt overwhelmed and lost in the face of their challenging times.

His words resonate with me particularly because of the many people in our times who are also lost, seeking meaning, security, love and compassion in our own challenging times.

Jesus knew he was sending the Apostles on a mission that would be dangerous, uncertain and challenging. It’s a call that’s as essential for us today as it was then. Listening to the gospel this morning I thought of the many women and men who have taken up that call through the ages, seeking to support the lost and marginalised of their own times.

We are called to carry on their work, bringing the Good News to those who feel lost today, seeking them out, helping them find their way through the challenges of life, offering them the love and compassion of Christ.

How is Christ calling you to share the Good News with those you encounter today?

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Called and Led

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Today is Good Shepherd Sunday and the worldwide day of prayer for Vocations. With that in mind I’m reflecting on these words from Today’s Gospel:

“One by one he calls his own sheep and leads them out. When he has brought out his flock, he goes ahead of them, and the sheep follow because they know his voice.”

These words go to the heart of the gospel and of Christian vocation. They take me back to the Rule of St Benedict which begins with the call to “listen…with the ear of your heart.” However our vocation is lived out, it’s this listening with the ear of our hearts that enables us to recognise the voice of Christ calling each one of us, and gives us the courage to follow where he leads us.

The more challenging life becomes the more voices seem to demand our attention. It’s easy to feel distracted and overwhelmed, to surrender to the loudest or the most frightening. This makes it even harder than usual to hear and recognise the gentle, persistent, truthful and hopeful voice of Christ calling us to follow him.

It seems to me that as we negotiate the many challenges we today face it’s essential that we give our attention to the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd calling us to follow him. As we move forward it will be the voices that we listen to that will shape our lives.

As we move through Eastertide what helps you to hear the voice of Christ, the Good Shepherd, calling you to follow him?

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Near Restful Waters…

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Although we are celebrating the feast of St Andrew today I’ve decided to stay with the Advent readings for my reflection so I’m looking at the gospel of the feeding of the five thousand through the filter of Psalm 22:

“Near restful waters he leads me, to revive my drooping spirit.”

These words sum up so much of what we feel when life is challenging, uncertain and difficult. As I look at the gospel I can identify with the people who followed Jesus for several days, and are so tired and hungry that he is not sure they have the energy to get themselves home. The kindness and compassion he shows bring to mind the Good Shepherd that the psalm describes:

“I feel sorry for all these people, they have been with me for three days now and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them off hungry, they might collapse on the way.”

This is the One we wait and long for through Advent, who will lead and guide us to a safe place where we can rest in God’s love. This is the One whose example we are called to follow when we encounter people whose challenging circumstances drain their energy and resourcefulness. We can never solve all the problems we encounter, but we can help one another in hard times by small acts of kindness and compassion. A cup of tea, a kind word, a smile can do much to lighten burdens and revive drooping spirits.

Where are you being called to show kindness and compassion today?

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Good Shepherd Sunday

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Today is both Good Shepherd Sunday and vocations Sunday. The Gospel with it’s call to listen makes the link between the two very clear:

“Jesus said “the sheep that belong to me listen to my voice; I know them and the follow me…They will never be lost and no one will ever steal them from me.’”

It takes me back to the heart of Benedictine spirituality and so of my vocation, the call to

“Listen with the ear of your heart”.

There’s no shortage of voices trying to attract our attention in today’s world. We’re exposed to a constant cacophony of voices drawing us in opposing directions. It can be confusing, unnerving and debilitation.

In the midst of all those voices there’s another one, gentle and persistent that calls to us. It’s the voice of the Good Shepherd reminding us that we are made for love, and are held in being by love. It’s a voice that calls us back to our true selves.

It tells us that however uncertain or chaotic our times the love of Christ will never let us go. The Good Shepherd call us to allow his voice to silence the confusion of the myriad voices around us and to focus on the one really matters, the one that can lead us to a life shaped by and for love.

Where is the Good Shepherd calling you to respond to his love today?