The Living Rite column explores what you will see, hear, taste, touch or smell while at church this weekend.
Well, we made it through yet another liturgical year. This weekend, we celebrate the Solemnity of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Whew, quite a long title for this final Sunday. The readings this week neatly tie together all the readings of the previous few weeks. This way we not only know that we are in the final week of Ordinary Time, but also hear the depiction of the final days of time as we will know it. How curious, though, that the readings and psalm describe the Good Shepherd, the symbol of caring and concern.
If we carefully unpack the Scriptures, we find that the description of the Good Shepherd tells us what we need to attain our final destination. It is about emulating the life of the Good Shepherd: feeding the hungry, giving drink to the thirsty; in other words, living out the Beatitudes.
So just who is a good shepherd? It could be the priest and deacon as they shepherd the church. How about a husband and wife as they live out being a good shepherd to each other? I think we can say with conviction that parents are shepherds to their children. Ah, what about teachers or employers? Sometimes even older siblings are shepherds to younger siblings.
In other words, anyone who in any way leads or lives by example can fit the bill of a good shepherd.
Now that we have explored a few of these possibilities, think of an average Sunday Mass. There are ushers who shepherd us in to find that one open spot, or the deacon who helps a new server learn the ropes. I watch those who clear the altar and clean all of the items used at Eucharist, as well as those who take the Eucharist to the homebound or ill.
Consider those who have stepped forward to shepherd the children in religious education. I see people who, after Mass, go from pew to pew straightening the missals and gathering up scraps of paper or trash. As a choir director, I have watched from the choir loft those shepherds who sit in pews behind a family with a crying baby and offer a smile that distracts the child. Then there are the parishioners who jump into action when someone faints or needs medical help.
What have been your observations or, better yet, your roles in shepherd leadership?
As we embark into a new year, pray for and thank those shepherds of your parish. Just a few weeks ago, we heard about the greatest commandment. If we can live by that commandment, it will be no hardship to be that good shepherd.
Wettstein is a volunteer choir director and former director of music and liturgy at Good Shepherd Parish, Chilton.