When conflicts and dissentions among different groups and leaders arose among the early Christians, someone felt the need to remember that in Jesus’ community he alone is the good Shepherd. He isn’t just one more shepherd, but the authentic one, the true one, the model that all others must follow.
This beautiful image of Jesus as good Shepherd is a call to conversion, directed to those who carry the title of «shepherds» in the Christian community. The shepherd who looks like Jesus only thinks about the sheep, doesn’t «flee» from problems, doesn’t «abandon» them. On the contrary, he is at their side, defends them, gives his life for them, «risks his life» seeking their wellbeing.
At the same time, this image is a call to fraternal communion among us all. The Good Shepherd «knows» his sheep and they «know» him. Only by means of this closeness, this mutual knowing, this communion of heart, does the Good Shepherd share his life with the sheep. It’s towards this communion and mutual knowing that we need to move forward toward even today in the Church.
In these times that aren’t easy for the faith, we need more than ever to join forces, and seek out together the gospel criteria and best practices in order to know how to walk creatively toward the future.
However this isn’t what’s happening. We hear some conventional calls for living in communion, but we don’t take steps to create a climate of mutual listening and dialogue. On the contrary, there grow wider the silencing and dissentions among bishops and theologians, between theologians of different schools, between movements and communities of diverse understandings, between groups and «blogs» of all kinds…
But maybe what’s saddest is to see how the distance between the hierarchy and the Christian community keeps growing. You could almost say that they live in two different worlds. In many places the «shepherds» and the «sheep» hardly know each other. For many bishops it’s become hard to sympathize with the real needs of believers, in order to offer them the orientation and encouragement they need. For many faithful it’s become hard to feel affection and interest towards some pastors whom they see as far away from their problems.
Only believers, full of the Spirit of the Good Shepherd, can create the climate of closeness, mutual listening, reciprocal respect and humble dialogue that is so needed.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf