Holy Land Pilgrimage

Shepherd Me, O God

February 1, 2022

On a bright sunny Sunday, we had the chance to visit the Shepherd’s Field, where the angels announced to the shepherds the good news of the birth of Christ. A church was built on this site around the 5th century, and the Byzantine monks maintained the area. Later a newer church, under the custody of the Franciscans, was built in the 1950s above the cave where the shepherds dwelt.

On our way to the Shepherd’s Field, our guide described the role of the shepherd as the lowliest position in society, especially in the biblical period. In other words, they were considered outcasts of society. Their lives were often risky, defending their flocks against thieves and wolves. This goes against a romanticized view of the countryside, where it is easy to imagine shepherds having a leisurely life.

After the Mass, I reflected on the role of the shepherds; despite being the most despised in the society, they were the first ones to hear the good news. As my classmates and I prepare for the diaconate in the upcoming Spring, we are also embracing the most despised role in the eyes of the world, that is, to be priests of Jesus Christ.

Although Jesus is the High Priest, he also took on the role of the shepherd following the lineage of his ancestor, David, who was also a shepherd. Embracing the shepherd’s role after the Good Shepherd model reminds us that the priesthood is not a leisurely life. We are called to look after our flock, which includes seeking the lost, such as the marginalized, the sick, those who have left the faith, and all those the gospel calls us to serve. Sometimes we will come back under-appreciated, yet the Good Shepherd provides the grace we need to fulfill our mission despite our weaknesses.

George Parayil
St. Thomas Syro-Malabar Catholic Diocese of Chicago

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