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      See also the previous Wild Reed posts:• Autumn Remnant• Afternoon Light• Photo of the Day – December 2, 2022• Brigit Anna McNeill on Hearing the Wild and Natural Call to Go Inwards• Brigit Anna McNeill on “Winter’s Way”• Photo of the Day – December 3, 2021• Photo of the Day – November 13, 2021• Winter . . . Within and Beyond (2020)• Winter . . . Within and B […]
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Where have all the Shepherds gone?

Sheep

"Where's Father John?"

Where have all the Shepherds gone? (with apologies to Pete Seeger)

As so often happens when I’m preparing a post, current events break into the flow of my thoughts and somehow find their way into the post. Last week was no exception. I was preparing my homily for the fourth Sunday of Easter, knowing that the gospel text is always taken from the tenth chapter of John’s gospel – the Good Shepherd text. I had also been doing some background reading on the Morris affair, referring to the forced resignation of Bishop William Morris from the diocese of Toowoomba, Queensland (plenty of information here). As always, I can’t help analysing the impact such events have on the life of the Church. That the resignation took place on 2nd May, yep, just one day after the beatification ceremony of Pope John Paul II was not lost on those who follow closely such matters. Pope Benedict must have had a surge of warm feelings – as a result of the beatification of his predecessor – that led him to order this resignation. Nuff said about him; let’s talk about shepherds.

The shepherd image is a very potent one, not only in the Bible, but also in the life of the Church. It finds its way into words such as “pastor” or “pastoral” (Latin pastor = shepherd). Although the word occurs several times in Scripture, two texts in particular stand out. They are Ezekiel 34 and John 10 (I will be citing some relevant sections from these two texts further down). In the Catholic tradition (as well as in the Orthodox Churches) there is a direct link between the symbol of the shepherd, and the Church’s ordained ministers: bishops, priests and, to a lesser extent, deacons. Rightly or wrongly, the terms ‘shepherd’ and ‘ordained minister’ have become so intertwined that it would seem impossible to use the shepherd-symbol if not in the context of ordained ministry. If not synonymous, they have become coterminous. As if to stress this point, there’s that symbol within a symbol – the bishop’s crosier – which, for all the gold, intricate patterns and semi-precious stones, represents a shepherd’s crook. Continue reading

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