Listening and loving with the heart of the Good Shepherd
A reflection for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B
by Fr. Willy Raymond, CSC
About thirty years ago, a priest friend of mine from Cincinnati, Father Joe, visited Mount Sinai in Egypt, where Moses received the Ten Commandments. He said: “It was very rugged and steep. On the way down, I saw a shepherd and her sheep on a nearby hill. It was just getting dark. She started playing her flute and headed in a direction away from where we were; the sheep just fell in line following her. It was clear the sheep trusted her and knew how much they depended on her. It was a beautiful scene.”
I have enjoyed Audible books during the pandemic, especially one called The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz
. It occurs to me that the four agreements can help us appreciate the Christian vocation to leadership and our baptismal grace to be good disciples of the Risen Lord. As we experience it in today’s Gospel, being a shepherd is more than a career, a function, or a job. It is a call from God to listen and love with the heart of Jesus, with the heart of the Good Shepherd. It is a mission to share, with our entire lives, the person of Jesus Christ as his disciples.
The four agreements include the following:
- BE IMPECCABLE WITH YOUR WORD. Always speak with integrity, say only what you mean, avoid using the word to speak against yourself or gossip about others. Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.
- DON’T TAKE ANYTHING PERSONALLY. You are not responsible for what others say and do. Do not be guided by the opinions and actions of others. Never be a victim who lives and acts out of fear. Be true to your deepest self.
- DON’T MAKE ASSUMPTIONS. Have the courage to ask questions and express what you want. Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, needless sadness, and drama.
- ALWAYS DO YOUR BEST. This one agreement allows you to act from your most authentic self. Let all your actions arise from your deepest beliefs, even in illness and other difficult circumstances beyond your control.
Return to the Gospel of the Good Shepherd. Consider your vocation in life. Are you a priest, a bishop, a lay pastoral minister, a mother, a wife, a father, a husband, a grandparent, a teacher, a medical professional, a business leader? All of these are true vocations; all call for good shepherds, trustworthy leaders.
Allow me to offer four examples of disciples of the Lord who are impeccable in their word, take nothing personally, make no assumptions, and always do their best:
Saint Charles Lwanga, 1860-1886,
a convert to Catholicism, led a group of young men to martyrdom for chastity rather than submit to the king’s advances. The Uganda Martyrs Shrine in Kampala, Uganda, is now the beating heart of Catholicism in Africa.
Blessed Pier Giorgio Frassati, 1901-1925,
was a handsome, fun-loving, athletic, courageous youth leader and devout Catholic born into a prominent Italian family. He loved the poor and Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament. Pope John Paul II called him an "explosion of joy". He died too soon at just 24 but has since become the model for young people seeking to live the Beatitudes.
Blessed Franz Jaeggerstaetter, 1907-1943,
was a Catholic layman, husband, and father. He refused to fight for the Nazis based on his Catholic faith. He was executed in 1943 and beatified by Pope Benedict. He inspires millions of conscientious objectors who refuse to participate in unjust wars.
Saint Gianna Beretta Molla, 1922-1962,
was a physician, a working mom, a professional woman, and a loving wife. She provides particular inspiration to all those seeking to protect children in the womb. She herself was faced with the choice of aborting her child in the womb or sacrificing her own life. Like all good shepherds, she chose to lay down her life for her child.
The four agreements are valuable guides, but the Good Shepherd is our indispensable guide. May we always listen to his voice and follow wherever he leads us. That is the ultimate agreement. Amen.
The readings for the Fourth Sunday of Easter, Year B, are
1 John 3:1-2
Father Willy Raymond, CSC, a member of the Congregation of Holy Cross, is President of Holy Cross Family Ministries, a worldwide family of ministries founded by Father Patrick Peyton, CSC, as Family Rosary and Family Theater Productions. His work has brought him to five continents and more than 17 countries to promote family spirituality and prayer furthering Father Peyton’s vision: “The family that prays together stays together.”