Implications of Being a Shepherd
Bishops and priests by virtue of their calling as shepherds have responsibilities to care for the spiritual welfare and also a concern for the needs of the lives of God‘s flock. Jesus himself is the ―Good Shepherd‖ because of his merciful concern and leading his flock to live waters. Jesus fulfils in his person the prophetic expectations of the Good Shepherd and institutes for certain of his followers a pastoral office in the believing community by different spiritual gifts (1 Cor 12).
One thing that we need to consider is that in doing pastoral ministry in the parish or diocese it is not only the ministry for bishops and priests but religious men and women and lay ministers also helping in pastoral ministry. It is also the work of all people who are called to serve the Church under the authorization of the hierarchy to serve publicly in the local church leadership in a particular area of ministry, collaborating with the pastoral ministry of bishops, priest and deacons, and at the level of responsibilities that are assigned to them. David Fisher writes, ―Pastoral ministry whether in the first century or the twenty-first requires those of us who have been captured by Christ to lead God’s people by climbing upon an altar as a way of life.
The ministry that happens in their parish, for instance, pastoral associate, parish catechetical leader, youth ministry leader, school principal and director of liturgy. The lay ministry is a participation in the threefold ministry of Christ, who is priest, prophet, and king. The ministry is to serve, means that work with the church members continues the mission ministry of Jesus Christ within her and the whole world. This ministry is applied by the bishop, priest, and deacon, and also by laypeople, all who are continuing the salvific ministry of Jesus Christ.
To be a good shepherd is to guide and to protect the sheep, this statement is very significant and important for us Catholics, it is one of the cores for our Christian‘s leaders to follow the way or the example of the good shepherds as Jesus said ―I am the good shepherd.‖ This image of the good shepherd is present in the Scripture.
The good shepherd‘s primary duties are to guide, provide food and water, protect and deliver, gather back to the herd those that were lost, and to nurture and provide security. This is reflected in the first five verses of the famous Psalm 23: ―He makes me lie down in green pastures; he leads me beside still waters; he leads me in right path….
Shepherds have always to look for new grazing fields since low-lying ground vegetation is the primary means of sustenance of sheep.
The mutuality of the shepherd and the sheep move beyond the recognition of the shepherd to do the shepherding. This suggests that being in a relationship with Jesus is not only following Jesus, as a sheep follows its shepherd, but taking on the shepherding and doing the work and the works that Jesus does.
Jesus the shepherd is not only descriptive of the relationship between the shepherd and the sheep but means becoming shepherds, caring for the sheep, and even laying down one’s life for the sheep. Interpreting 10:16 (“I have other sheep that do not belong to this fold. I must bring them also”) from this perspective suggests that it is not simply about the identity of the other sheep, but about the activity of discipleship itself and the mission of the gospel.
Jesus as the good shepherd will fulfil the promises of 10:16, not only with his own actions as the good shepherd but also in the ongoing activity of the shepherd by the disciples the sheep toward greater works than these. This changes the reading and meaning of Jesus as the good shepherd because, in this way, the care of the sheep and the abundance of life (10:10) that Jesus promises to reach beyond the narrative itself and reveal beforehand the truth of the narrative’s final words: “But there are also many other things that Jesus did; if every one of them were written down, I suppose that the world itself could not contain the books that would be written” (21:25).
So the relevance of the good shepherd is not only for the leadership position of organizations of the church but it will be also for every one of us who live with the smell of the sheep. This means that we meet people where they are and we accompany them through the ups and downs. We have direct experience of their lives and hopes. We know the people whom we serve, and they know us. Pope Francis encourages us to embrace people in their reality in order to transform that reality through loving service to be the fragrant oil of anointment.