The litmus test of whether I keep the right perspective on my pastoral duties is the bi-monthly Skype call to my parents in Poland. My Dominican assignments have always felt super busy, and being the new pastor at St. Catherine is not different: learning about the ways finances work, facilities are maintained, liturgies are organized, along with meeting with individuals in charge of our ministries, couples who want to get married, parishioners going through hard times, etc. – these all make me a truly happy, yet quite busy, priest. Now, my parents’ attention span is 1-2 minutes. Having our Skype chats every other week for the past 6 years has taught me that if I don’t manage to squeeze the list of extremely important pastoral issues I currently work on into a 1-2 minute summary, my dad would start drifting away with his veggie garden stories and my mom would follow with updating me on my sister’s kids’ school stuff. Frustrating, but how helpful! If I can’t tell them in one minute what it really is that I am doing and why it’s so important, perhaps I myself don’t really know?
The readings today are a good reminder for me as the pastor as well as for all who actively cultivate our parish life. All things that we do, projects we come up with, programs and committees – diverse as they are – should stem out of this one conviction, one fundamental experience: the Lord is our shepherd. We worry about declining church attendance? The Lord is our shepherd. The budget is not done on time? The Lord is our shepherd. We need more adult education programs, student ministry events, social justice projects? The Lord is our shepherd.
Does that mean we shouldn’t do anything? Of course not. We will know what to do and will be capable of carrying it out precisely because we first have experienced that – as the readings today tell us – that we are like sheep in need of a shepherd, that the shepherd has come and taught us “many things”, moreover, that he has made us one through his blood, removing the source of division. It is in response to that gift that we are capable of living out the richness of Christian discipleship, in our individual lives as well as in our community.
“The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want”. That is the clearest summary of all our whats and whys.