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The Heart of A Shepherd Part 1

It was with excitement that I, together with millions of Filipinos, anticipated the visit of Pope Francis last January 2015. The excitement built up when he finally arrived and all throughout the days of his visit. Even now i can still remember the many memorable moments of that visit. 


The first among the many memories was during the start of his homily in his very first Mass here in the Philippines at the Manila Cathedral when he said to the gathering of bishops, priests and religious: “Do you love me?” Many immediately responded, “Yes!” The Holy Father was amused but at the same time appreciative of the response since he was simply starting his homily by quoting a passage from the last chapter of the Gospel of John where our Lord Jesus asked Peter that question. 


The question was most significant to us in Couples for Christ as this is the anchor verse of CFC’s theme for 2015 taken from John 21:15-17. What immediately came to our mind was the Holy Father giving CFC a very strong affirmation in its life and mission.


This passage, as we reflected on it last year, gave importance to the role of St. Peter to shepherd the flock Christ was anointing him to do. He was to pastor and care for God’s people as Christ the Good shepherd would. To this day, the importance of the role of the Pope as our Good shepherd is crucial in the life and mission of the Church.


Back to Pope Francis and fast forward to this year. My wife Nina and I, together with five other brethren in the CFC international Council, attended a conference sponsored by Cor Unum to reflect on the 10th year since the issuance of the Encyclical of Pope Benedict XVI- Deus Caritas Est.


One of the highlights of the event was a noontime audience with the Holy Father on February 26, 2016. Many of us thought that, after his message and giving personal time to the cardinals, bishops and other dignitaries, the audience would come to a close with his blessing. But lo and behold! He started to personally welcome all the participants, giving of his precious time to each one, from the front row all the way to the back. We all lined up with great excitement, anticipating what we will say or do once he reaches our place. But when that moment arrived, I simply said, “Holy Father, we are from the Philippines and we love you!” He simply smiled back and with his big, bright eyes focused on me as if I were the only person in the room, and then he gave his blessing. 


What an awesome experience! It was like coming face to face with Christ himself who is our Good shepherd. Pope Francis exudes the very essence of what a true shepherd is—one who cares for his people and imparts the love of God to them.


The shepherd and guardian of your souls is a familiar imagery of the care, vigilance and love God has for his people in scriptures. this is reflected in 1 Peter 2:25: “…you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” In Luke 15:4-6, Jesus showed his love and care for all humanity: “What man among you having a hundred sheep and losing one of them would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert and go after the lost one until he finds it? 


And when he does find it, he sets it on his shoulders with great joy and, upon his arrival home, he calls together his friends and neighbors and says to them, ‘Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.’”


All of us leaders in community have received the same Divine Appointment as shepherd to the people under our care. The Lord, our Good shepherd, has promised to care for us, his sheep, and to appoint other shepherds to look after our welfare. In the Entrance Antiphon for the Mass celebrated on the anniversary of the election of a bishop, we are told: “I will look after my sheep, says the Lord, and I will raise up one shepherd who will pasture them. i, the Lord, will be their God.”


As we leaders take on this great responsibility of shepherding our people, let us consecrate ourselves to the care and authority of our Good shepherd. 


As anointed shepherds of our people, may we by our word and example inspire and guide the flock under our care that we may all come to the joy of everlasting life.


The Direction of a Shepherd’s Heart 
Pope Francis, in his homily on the solemnity of the sacred heart of Jesus this year said: “The heart of the Good shepherd reaches out to us, above all to those who are most distant. there the needle of his compass inevitably points, there we see a particular “weakness” of his love, which desires to embrace us all and lose none.


Contemplating the heart of Christ, we are faced with the fundamental question in life: Where is my heart directed? it is a question we need to ask ourselves everyday of our life. our ministry is often full of plans, projects and activities. Amidst all these, we must still ask ourselves: What is my heart set on? Where is it directed, what is the treasure that it seeks? For as Jesus said: “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” (Matthew 6:21)


Pope Francis in his 19 March 2013 homily said “caring for others must begin with watching over one’s own heart, mind and actions… resisting hatred, envy and pride, and emotions that can tear others down.”


Let us reflect on our weaknesses and sins and go deep into the root of all these failings—the place where we have hidden that “treasure” that keeps us from the Lord. May our hearts remain pointed to only two directions: “the Lord and his people!”


To help our hearts burn with great charity like the heart of Jesus, our Good shepherd, we can do three things as suggested by Pope Francis: seek out, include and rejoice. 


We will reflect on this in the next issue but for now let us ponder the fundamental question Christ is asking today: What is my heart set on? Where is it directed, what is the treasure that we seek?

Added on Monday, October 10, 2016


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