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Written in 1992, Pastores Dabo Vobis draws heavily upon a line from the prophet Jeremiah that not only summarises the entire exhortation issued by Saint John Paul - ‘I will give you shepherds after my own heart’ (Jer. 3:15) - it is also a line that connects all of the scripture passages, we are gifted to proclaim, this Sunday.

‘For he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.’ The simple phrase in today’s Gospel is striking. The master is not just a teacher; he has deep feelings for his people. He is the perfect shepherd; he is the model of shepherding that Jeremiah foretells. There is no talk of obligation or duty here. There is no mention of regulation or requirement. The active and outward love of a God for his people is visible in action. This is the one who will lay down his life for his sheep. This is the Heart we are called to imitate. This is the energy and the desire that all who minister are asked to model.

The challenge of the today’s scriptures is to honestly recognise in ourselves, the difference between opportunity and burden.

In the day to day and week to week life that is Christian living, sheep and shepherd alike are asked to be open to fresh understanding and energy. Christian living is not a series of boxes to be ticked, fixtures to be filled, tasks to be completed, it is availability to the requirements of true witness, openness to the true shepherd’s heart. To quote one rather well known voice in today’s world - “Espouse your community, be profoundly bonded to it!” (Pope Francis).

This homily first appeared in the July/August edition of Intercom Magazine. Re-produced here with kind permission of editor.

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