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Saturday, April 28, 2007

WANTED: GOOD SHEPHERD

WANTED: GOOD SHEPHERD

The Gospel Text: John 10:27-30

Jesus said:
"My sheep hear my voice;
I know them, and they follow me.
I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish.
No one can take them out of my hand.
My Father, who has given them to me, is greater than all,
and no one can take them out of the Father’s hand.
The Father and I are one."
Instead of my usual Sunday commentary, I'm posting a Pastoral Statement from our bishop of the Diocese of Imus (Cavite). Bishop Chito Tagle relates the Gospel reading from John 10:27-30 ("Good Shepherd" theme) to the forthcoming midterm elections. Note, however, that the text does not come from the Good Shepherd discourse but from Jesus' interaction with his fellow Jews during the Feast of the Dedication (Jewish Hannukah). To have a proper context, the Good Shepherd discourse in 10:1-21 is worth reading then.
A good background material on the symbolism of shepherd in the Bible is the work of Elena Bosetti, Yahweh, Shepherd of the People: Pastoral Symbolism in the Old Testament (Slough, UKMaynooth, Ireland: St. Pauls, 1993). Sister Elena Bosetti is a member of the Pastorelle sisters and currently professor of Biblical Theology at the Gregorian University. Please click on this for a sample of her lectio divina on shepherd.
Here’s the pastoral statement of Bishop Chito Tagle:

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday. We praise God for sending us Jesus, the Good Shepherd who offered himself so that we may have life.
Life. Humane and full life – that is God’s design for us. That is our dream as well. As one Filipino people, we hope that after periods of trials, the vision of the Book of Revelation may come true: “Never again shall they know hunger or thirst…for the Lamb on the throne will shepherd them. He will lead them to springs of life-giving water, and God will wipe every tear from their eyes” (Rev 7:16-17). It is clear that when Jesus the Lamb of God shephers the suffering people, they will find a humane and full life.
How was Jesus able to truly shepherd us? The gospel describes Him and His shepherding in three ways. First, He knows his sheep and they follow Him (Jn 10:27). He is not a stranger who does not understand his sheep, but rather one who has intimately entered their lives. Secondly, He gives them eternal life and they will not perish (Jn 10:28). Jesus does not lead the sheep to destruction or death but to the good. Thirdly, Jesus and his Father are one (Jm 10:30). His loving union with the Father and His will is the root of His love and mission towards the sheep. His shepherding does not spring from ambition but from the love of the God the Father. A shepherd with these three characteristics of Jesus will surely lead us to a humane and full life.
In two weeks we shall have national and local elections. We will choose our leaders or shepherds in government. Let us not forget, however, that in building up our society, all of us are shepherds. Our nation, province, town or city is our common responsibility. Common responsibility calls for common shepherding. This is called participatory governance. Everyone shares in achieving a humane and full life for all. The Social Teaching of the Church stresses that it is a Christian duty to participate in community life especially through an informed and responsible choice of leaders during elections (Compendium 190-191). Pope John Paul II teaches that democracy is safeguarded when the people choose their leaders and hold them accountable to the people (Centessimus Annus 46). It is the obligation of those elected to give an accounting of their work to the people (Compendium 408). Therefore, leaders and citizens are shepherds of one another so that the whole community may achieve a humane and full life.
Given the vision of the Diocese of Imus of a community that is God-oriented and therefore oriented to neighbor, life, society and creation, we your pastors are calling on the candidates and the citizenry to reflect on the following:
  1. Elect only those candidates who are God-fearing, morally upright, worthy and prepared. Do not choose potential winners because they are popular but for those who deserve to be elected. We often think that a vote for a potential loser is a wasted vote. That is not so. A vote for an unworthy candidate is wasted, even if the candidate wins.
  2. It is the duty of the laity, together with the ordained and religious, to participate in the PPCRV-NASSA-Namfrel programs of voters' education, the guarding of ballots and their tabulation. Monitoring the performance of elected officials is equally important so that our votes will not be wasted.
  3. Based on the social concerns in Cavite that surfaced during our Diocesan Caravan of Christ the King last November 24-25, 2006, let us invite candidates in our province, towns and cities to publicly commit themselves to these concerns:
    1. A comprehensive plan to protect ecology in Cavite, to keep it clean and suitable for healthy living, and to conserve Cavite's agriculture.
    2. A vigorous program to protect the dignity, rights and livelihood of Cavite’s laborers, farmers, fishing communities, women and poor settlers.
    3. A clear program to safeguard the institution of the family and family values in the face of cultural changes and the massive migration of Caviteño OFWs.
    4. A viable program for the protection of children in Cavite, especially those of OFW parents, the homeless, undernourished and abused.
    5. A program for making health service available and affordable in
      Cavite.
    6. Rejection and eradication of jueteng and illegal gambling in Cavite.
    7. Rejection and eradication of violence, arbitrary arrest and killing as a way of doing politics in Cavite.
    8. Rejection and eradication of receiving and giving bribes as a political tool in Cavite.
Let us discern whether our candidates are good shepherds who would hear our voice and respond to our pleas for a humane and full life.
We are inviting the various ministries, basic ecclesial communities, religious organizations and ecclesial movements to coordinate with their parish priests in order to organize prayer vigils, holy hours, recitation of the rosary and other forms of prayer on the day leading up to May 14 elections. Through the prayer of the Mary, Our Lady of the Pillar, we entrust our nation and our province of Cavite to Jesus the Good Shepherd who desires that every Filipino and Caviteño may have a humane and full life.

Luis Antonio G. Tagle
Bishop of Imus

2 comments:

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This is a very appropriate commentary on the Good Shepherd as the Filipinos will choose their leaders-shepherds. Bishop Tagle's article shows that he knows, he listens and he hears the different voices of his flocks. However, Hearing all those reports about sexual scandals involving the Catholic priests all over the world, it's just so difficult to understand the role of the clergy as shepherds in our modern times when they are the ones who have abused those children and young people who have been entrusted to their care. I hope and pray that the Good shepherd, Our Lord Jesus,will inspire our priests to be more faithful in their chosen vocation as shepherds of His flocks. May the Good shepherd guide voters to truly choose their shepherds according to the ideals of the Good Shepherd.