Dear Parishioners of St Benedict’s
We have moved from level 4 to level 3 in our battle against COVID-19. It has not been easy, but we are winning, and there is light at the end of the tunnel; so, hang in there.
Over and over, during the last five weeks, I have been impressed and even overwhelmed by the practical goodness and compassion shown by so many kiwis. What we hear of and see on TV is probably just the tip of the iceberg, Good Shepherd in so many ways.
Every year, on the fourth Sunday of Easter we read a snippet from John’s gospel (Year A, John 10:1-10; Year B, John 10:11-18; Year C, John 10:27-30). This year we are in Year A, but you might like to reflect on the other readings as well. We often refer to this Sunday as “Good Shepherd Sunday”. It is a day to remember all those who serve us in the imitation of Christ, the Good Shepherd. This image of the Good Shepherd is one of the most ancient, loved, and enduring images of Jesus. We put it to music, sing it so often, and pray it at the funerals of our loved ones; it is always a favorite. In biblical times sheep were essential as they provided both food and clothing; therefore, the Good Shepherd had an important role to play.
On a number of occasions, I have visited some of the ancient Catacombs in the caves under ancient Rome. These are caves where the earliest Christians, our ancestors, came to hide from the Romans, where they met for prayer and the Eucharist, and where they buried their dead, many of whom had been executed.
Every time I have visited one of the Catacombs, I have noticed how often the image of Christ as the Good Shepherd is etched or printed in the walls. From earliest Christians days, it has been a favorite depiction of Jesus: “I am the Good Shepherd”.
We all are called to be Good Shepherds. I have read and heard of a number of people who have lamented the fact that we were not able to gather in our churches over Easter and celebrate our most loved and sacred liturgies. Yes, we all missed our loved hymns and prayers, our symbols and rituals. However, I was reading in an article a few days ago that in spite of what we missed, this might be the best Easter that the Church has had.
Jesus didn’t die on the Cross so we could all be religiously comfortable. We all believe as doctrine in the incarnation, but so often, we leave on a park bench. We are called to be incarnational – hands on and grounded, flesh and blood for the life of others.
Over this Easter season 2020 we have all seen so many Good Shepherds, men and woman, young and old reaching out in concrete and practical ways, laying down their lives as Good Shepherds for others. The list is endless, so much of what have seen and experienced can inspire us to be better Christians in the image and likeness of the Good Shepherd.
If we end up this Easter as being better, more attentive, loving, and compassionate than previously, we will have truly had a holy and Christian Easter.
May we all strive to live our lives in the image of Christ the Good Shepherd.
Monsignor Paul Farmer