Have you ever witnessed a shepherd at work as he or she corrals clueless sheep toward gates of safety? Ever watched a shepherd lead her flock across dangerous mountain ranges to get to the river for a drink? At night, have you seen a shepherd hedge in her sheep with her body to protect them from the wolves waiting to devour them?
I have, but it looked slightly different.
I’ve witnessed seminarians process into a church led by hundreds of priestly shepherds, surrounded by the flock they will vow to protect into the Gates of Heaven. I’ve watched countless spiritual shepherds lead one sheep at a time from treacherous lives of sin to drink the living water of Christ. I have seen men lay down their lives on cathedral floors for you and me on their ordination day like a shepherd safeguarding their sheep.
Sisters, Christ is not the only man who laid His life down for you. Countless faithful and holy priests have done so because they are convinced you have earthly and eternal value! Your worth is found in the chalice you raise to your lips after declaring, “Amen, I believe.” You are paid for in full every time your voice utters the words, “Bless me, Father, for I have sinned.”
Over the past few months, I have been left speechless by the priestly shepherds in my life, ordained men who have not ceased to seek me, their lost sheep. In the midst of wolves attacking the Church, I am thankful for the priests who chose to wear their collars or cassocks in public. I am encouraged by fathers who compassionately listened to people who called them names by association and endured being spat upon and harassed because of those that chose to go astray instead of being the shepherds they vowed to be.
Today, when I read this Gospel, I am grateful for the priestly shepherds in my life. They have been called by our heavenly Father to find you and me. Will you allow your priestly shepherd to carry you back to Christ? Because this is what they have vowed to do, and today’s Gospel demands us to recognize that we are not the 99, we are the single lost sheep in need of our shepherd to find us and bring us back into the flock.
Let us pray the Act of Contrition for all the times we've sinned and left Our Lord.
Tricia Tembreull is a California girl with a boundless passion for life. After two decades of ministering to teens and youth ministers as a trainer, ministry mentor, and speaker in Catholic youth ministry, Tricia now serves as Campus Minister at USC Caruso Catholic Center. She loves adventure and seeks it everywhere she goes. As an avid foodie, she enjoys testing new recipes out on friends and family, gathering them around the table to encounter Christ in one another and be drawn to the satisfying unity we crave in the Eucharist. You can find out more about her here.