(A reflection on 1 Pt 5:1-4)
One of the most significant moments in Simon Peter’s relationship with Jesus was the third time Jesus revealed Himself to them after His resurrection when He asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love Me?” Peter answered three times, “Yes, Lord, You know that I love You!”. And three times Jesus asked Peter to take care of His flock. (Jn 21:15-17)
Peter obviously took that request to heart and remembered it for the rest of his life. In yesterday’s first scripture reading from 1 Pt 5:1-4, Peter writes to the Presbyters, the teachers of the faith, to tend to and be examples to the “flock of God”.
This passage struck me in a number of ways. First, I recalled the many sentiments that were offered from comments at our deanery’s recent Synod on Synodality meeting. Although those present were a mere microcosm of our Church, there seemed to be a general opinion that one of the problems in our Church today is that our bishops and priests are not adequately “feeding their sheep” or “tending their flock”.
Secondly, it brought to mind that we are all called to be teachers of the faith in one way or another – through our vocations as a parent or friend, through our occupations, and our volunteerism in various ministries. We only have to recall Jesus’ words to His disciples when He was faced with feeding the five thousand, “Give them some food yourselves” (Lk 9:13), to understand that He wants us to join with Him in His mission to save souls.
Today more than ever, our Lord needs us all, you and me, to help feed and tend His flock. Too many are not being fed and are straying to what looks like “greener” pasture in today’s world of materialism, idealism and relativism. Once they leap that fence they become easy prey for the wolves. We need to fertilize our “Catholic” pasture so that the grazing sates their appetites.
How do we tend to the flock? I think the first step is to set aside the idea that our faith is something that is done to us, that it’s someone else’s responsibility. With too few priests and deacons to go around, the laity needs to take some ownership in their personal faith formation and that of those in their “pasture”. We need to become better catechized, grow deeper in our relationships with Christ through prayer, and live virtuous lives that are examples of holiness to others.
Every person has an opportunity to be a witness to someone who is hungering for the Bread of Life and thirsting for the Living Water. We need to remember that Jesus gave us one mission, to make disciples of all nations, and we need to make that a priority in our lives. We don’t have to become missionaries or monks, we just need to live simply and find synergies in our everyday lives that will edify our families, friends and acquaintances.
We need to remember that the basic building block of our Church is not the parish, but rather our homes, the Domestic Church. If we want to rebuild our Church we need to recall how the Apostles and the first disciples lived after Christ’s death. Theirs was a two-pronged approach: to stick together and build and protect their community, and to draw others into it by teaching them the truth of the Gospel. We can do that with our families by practicing our faith with our children. We can live hospitality and invite people into our homes for friendship and good conversation which may lead to opportunities to pray together.
We need to look for opportunities to be charitable to those in need by practicing the Corporal and Spiritual Works of Mercy.
We need to not be afraid to practice our faith in our work places as employers and employees; at school as educators and students; in athletics as fellow athletes and coaches; and where we volunteer.
Our faith ought to be personal but it should never be private. We need to be bold and leave others with no doubt about our love for Jesus.
Put more succinctly, as laity, we need to step up our game, take ownership and not depend on just our clergy to feed the flock. We need to survey our “pasture” of influence and determine who is grazing mindlessly in that pasture and on the verge of wandering off. We need to provide them with “green grass” that will nourish and satisfy their souls.
What is your pasture? Who is in your flock? How can you feed and tend to them with the love of Christ?
“Dear Jesus, thank you for providing priests and friends who, through their gentle love and care, have shepherded me in my faith life. I pray for the grace to do the same for those whom I mentor and lead to you through spiritual friendship. Amen.”
(Feed Your Flock was first published on the blog Reflections of a Lay Catholic)
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