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Imitate the Good Shepherd

Fr. Roy Cimagala .

IF we truly want to be good Christians, we need to imitate Christ as the Good Shepherd. That is to say, that we have to learn to complicate our life to look for those who are lost. We just cannot be contented with taking care of those who are already somehow safe in the flock which, definitely, is already a complicated matter.

We have to complicate our life some more, willing to leave behind our comfort and convenience readily. Christ, in describing himself as the Good Shepherd, said that he was willing to lay down his life for his sheep. (cfr Jn 10,11-18) The immediate context of those words was in order to protect his sheep. But we can readily say also that his willingness to die for his sheep was meant also to look for the lost one.

We need to process this requirement of a good Christian as a good shepherd very slowly, and start to develop the proper attitude, skills and virtues to fulfil it. Definitely, we need to be strongly identified with Christ, first of all, and then go through the details of how to meet this requirement.

Do we know what is to be lost, especially in the context of today? It’s easy to identify those who openly consider themselves as atheists, agnostics, heretics, etc., as lost. But there are those who may appear to be very pious, very saintly but actually are also lost, even to a greater degree, because of their most deceptive inconsistency in their Christian life.

And there are those who are deeply trapped in some kind of addiction, whether it be in drugs, alcohol, sex, the internet, games, gambling, etc. These cases will require a lot of creative and patient interventions. Would we be willing to tackle this challenge?

To be a good shepherd would require that we should always be observing people and following or, even better, be promptly in the know with regard to events, trends, fashions, signs of the times.

We should sharpen our skills of discerning and assessing the moral quality of a person’s actuations or status, and of the different situations in life. We need to be ready with the appropriate criteria with which to judge these things. So you can just imagine the amount of prayer and study needed to attain this ideal.

If we truly care for people, we should arrive at that point where we get to know their strengths and weaknesses. Somehow we would be able to monitor the developments of their lives. We have to understand then that to be immersed in God is to be immersed also in the lives of people. We cannot live in a cocoon. As Pope Francis always reminds us, we need to reach out to the peripheries.

For sure, to be a good shepherd, we should be willing to get dirty, to be truly patient and hopeful in spite of the difficulties and the likely setbacks we will experience along the way.

And what makes things more exciting is that while we should be ready to look for the lost, we should also see to it that we don’t lose those who are already safe in the flock. So this means that we have to have the right priorities in organizing our day.

We cannot sacrifice our prayer life, our family life, our professional life, just to search for the lost. Or better said, we just have to know how to put all these competing goals together.

I suppose this is the reason why to be truly Christian, to be truly a saint, one would really need to be heroic, making extraordinary sacrifices when the need arises. It cannot be any other way. We need to know how to undertake great sacrifices.

***

How our patience should be. We cannot deny that whether we like it or not, we need to have patience, lots of it, in our life. Otherwise, we cannot survive beyond our young age. There are just so many difficulties, problems, issues and all sorts of predicaments that would demand from us nothing less than patience — heroic, holy patience, in fact.

But we have to make sure that our patience is not simply a matter of some practical advantage or purpose, with some ulterior motives. It should have a deeper source, a greater motive and a higher objective. It would be a pity if those occasions where patience is needed would miss the chance to base and orient our patience properly.

And this can only mean that we pattern our patience after the patience of Christ who bore all our sins by going through his passion and death on the cross, all of this out of pure obedience to his Father and pure love for us.

In short, we have to have the mind and attitude of Christ when developing and practicing patience. It’s only then that our patience would acquire its true value and would play along the providence of God.

This can only be done when we have Christ vitally with us.

We should continually ask for his grace for this purpose. In fact, the first thing we should do when we need to be patient is to ask for God’s grace.

And with God’s grace, let us develop the pertinent attitudes, skills and virtues. Foremost among these would be a strong trust in God’s providence that is accompanied by our all-out effort to handle our challenges. We have to learn to always defer to God’s will and ways even if they may appear to be against our reasoning and calculations.

We have to stretch our capacity to suffer, and even to suffer with a smile. After all when we suffer with Christ, everything will already be taken care of, irrespective of how things end.

In this regard, we can always take advantage of our daily events, already full of contradictions, to broaden and deepen our capacity to suffer out of love, which is what patience is all about.

We should practice restraint and moderation in our thoughts and reactions. Since our spontaneous reactions cannot be controlled, let’s see to it that we can manage to correct ourselves or at least put ourselves in some cautious mode as soon as we can.

We should always be careful with our emotions, moods and passions. The same with the social trends and fashions that can trigger a mob response to situations, instead of a more human and charitable one.

Our words should be well thought out before they are uttered. More importantly, we should always arm ourselves with good intentions, the skill to discern whatever good there may be in any situation even if it is dominated by so much evil. This will make patience easy and even enjoyable.

We should avoid being dragged by negative thoughts whenever we encounter difficulties. We should be quick to react in a spiritual and supernatural way, always hopeful and optimistic even, deeply convinced that with Christ, everything will always work out for the good. Christ knows how to derive good from evil, how to resurrect from the dead, etc.

Our patience should always be marked by peace and serenity. While the physical signs of pain and suffering cannot be avoided, we should try our best, if we have true patience, that we refrain from falling into self-pity and subjective misery. True patience can only be lived with joy. A joyless patience is not true patience.

 

E-mail: roycimagala@gmail.com

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