Holy Land Pilgrimage

Like Humble Shepherds

December 10, 2021

I’ve noticed that when we go to the Holy Sites, we often need to duck down low to the ground to be able to reverence and meet Christ there: the door of humility at the Nativity Church in Bethlehem, the site of the Crucifixion is beneath an altar, and we all had to duck to step into Jesus’ tomb, the Holy Sepulcher. This lowering of ourselves to meet Jesus is beautifully exemplified by the shepherds in our Gospel. This example shows us how to carry out our future ministry of Word and Eucharist as Priests.

There is a striking depiction of these shepherds in the pilot episode of the series called The Chosen. This episode gives context and a backstory to the shepherds who met the Christ child. It depicts a shepherd who is poor, has a handicapped leg, hungers for Gods word, and is mistreated by many. He struggles to walk and make his way around Bethlehem. After arriving in Bethlehem during the day, he brings his lamb to be offered as a sacrifice. Sadly, he is rejected along with the lamb because it had a blemish. The priest told him that it was because of people like him that the Messiah had not yet come. Next, he is depicted as meeting Joseph and the pregnant Mary passing through. He offers them water and shows that he is a man of charity. When he attempts to hear the Word of God proclaimed, he is cast out of the meeting place. Finally, he falls to the ground after being bumped in the city and is stuck in the dust. No one helps him or seems to care.

He returns to the field with his sheep and night falls.  The other shepherds with him look down on him and tell him to sleep with the sheep in the field. Then God raises him up: the angels appear to all of the shepherds. He and the others make haste to the place where Jesus was born. He is healed on the way of his handicap and runs to meet Jesus. When he finally arrives, Joseph holds out the Christ child for him to hold. Christ is not given to the religious leaders who were arrogant, but to this humble man. This is what will happen for us as priests. In a matter of months, the Christ child will come into the world through the power of the Holy Spirit anointing our words and we will hold him in our hands at every Mass in the Eucharist. What a privilege! If we celebrate Mass with this humility and hold Jesus with reverence and love like this shepherd, others will be drawn into this mystery of the Incarnation with us.

Next, the shepherd asks Jesus’ name. When Mary tells him, he responds, “Everyone must know.” He runs through Bethlehem and tells anyone who will listen what he has seen and heard. The child Jesus can’t speak for himself to proclaim his own coming. In humility, he allows others to speak on his behalf. The Eucharistic Christ also does not speak audibly to the world and out of humility, he entrusts his preaching mission to us to preach in his name. 

Let us build our lives on the foundation of humility as this shepherd did so that our ministry will be effective in drawing all to the Eucharist and so that none of our words will fall to the ground.

Deacon Ben Valentine
Archdiocese of Dubuque

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