Thank you for subscribing to Emmanuel, “The Magazine of Eucharistic Spirituality,” in this Jubilee of Mercy.
In mid-May, I participated in the ordination liturgy of the Diocese of Cleveland at the Cathedral of Saint John the Evangelist during which five deacons were ordained as priests. It was a beautiful celebration before an overflowing assembly.
As the newly ordained priests were invested with the stole and the chasuble, symbols of their office in the church, the choir sang a gorgeous hymn entitled Heart of a Shepherd, composed by Rory Cooney who makes use of the Gelineau verses of Psalm 23 in a highly original interpretation. The refrain goes:
If you love me, feed my lambs;
Be my heart, my voice, my hands.
If you love me, feed my sheep.
And for my part, I give you the heart of a shepherd.
The words of the refrain especially resonated with me since the familiar text from John 21, which tells of the miraculous catch of fish, the breakfast Jesus prepared for his disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and his threefold questioning of Peter, was the Gospel for my own ordination in the late 1970s. The experience reignited powerful memories of that day.
During a Mass on the feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus on June 3, at the end of a special three-day Jubilee of Mercy for priests and seminarians in the city of Rome, Pope Francis again touched on a theme that he first articulated in the opening days of his papacy: that shepherds must be close to the people and wholly committed to them.
The Holy Father encouraged the priests gathered in Saint Peter’s Square that day to be joyful, daring, and to seek out even those who are most distant from God. “A shepherd after the heart of God,” he said, “has a heart sufficiently free to set aside his own concerns. He does not live by calculating his gains or how long he has worked: he is not an accountant of the Spirit, but [someone] who seeks out those in need. . . . In seeking, he finds, and he finds because he takes risks. He does not stop when disappointed and he does not yield to weariness. Indeed, he is stubborn in doing good, anointed with the divine obstinacy that loses sight of no one.”
We are able to love and serve in this manner because each of us has first been touched by love ― the love of God in Christ his Son. “There I know I am welcomed and understood as I am; there, with all my sins and limitations, I know the certainty that I am chosen and loved.” Francis’ words reminded me of something he said in a highly publicized interview following his election, in answer to the question “Who is Jorge Mario Bergoglio?”, “I am a sinner.” Implicitly, he was also saying, “I am loved and redeemed by Christ.”
The call to have the heart of a shepherd pertains to all who serve the church, the people of God, in ministry: the ordained, those in the consecrated life, and those in lay ecclesial ministry. It is good for us to ask frequently, as the Holy Father suggested in his homily, “Where is my heart directed?” And to recall moments of first love and intensity when our souls were touched by God and we heard the Shepherd’s call to follow him.
In This Issue
At the start of a new pastoral year, Robert Nogosek, CSC, shares the conclusion of his article on “Integrating Social Teaching with Evangelization.” Owen F. Cummings, deacon and academic dean at Oregon’s Mount Angel Seminary, examines the theology of mercy and love in the Gospels of Luke and John. We are grateful to Owen for his beautiful Year of Mercy reflections which enrich our understanding and living of divine mercy as disciples and ministers. Dennis J. Billy, CSsR, writes another in his excellent series on various writers and the Eucharist, highlighting here the writings and sermons of Ronald Knox, the Anglican convert and Catholic priest.
Anthony Schueller, SSS