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The Heart of A Shepherd Part 2

“Were not our hearts burning (within us) while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:32) 


These are the words the two disciples, who had encountered Jesus on the way to Emmaus, used to describe their strong feelings of an unexpected encounter with the Living Word. Meditating on this passage, I vividly remembered an experience of a heart burning with an intense feeling.

 

During my early days in the corporate world when Nina and I were new in Couples for Christ, I had the habit of coming in early for work so I could do my scripture reading and meditation in the privacy of my office. 


One day, as I was going deeper into meditation, I felt a strong surge of God’s love filling my entire being and I wanted to share it. As I always kept my office door open, I saw our CEO walking by the corridor on his way to our dining hall. The force of God’s love propelled me to get up from my chair and follow him. 


When I entered the dining hall, he was already being served coffee. In those days, I did not relish the idea of talking to my top boss about something not connected with my role. My association with him were bi-monthly operations meetings and chance encounters in the production line where he would inquire about certain problems we had. But this day was different. 


With a heart burning with God’s love, I mustered the boldness to tell my CEO, “Boss, God loves you!” He looked me in the eye and said, “Thank you, I needed that!” He then started to talk about some aspects in his life. He did not go into lengthy details but I could see he really appreciated hearing my words that morning. He was a quiet, unassuming executive but very professional and kind to his subordinates. 


That morning, because I was looking at him through God’s eyes, and because he too had opened himself up, isaw that he too had a heart burning with love for his God and his people.


In my previous article, I cited Pope Francis urging us to have hearts burning with charity like Jesus our Good shepherd. In aspiring for this, we are to train ourselves on three things: seek out, include and rejoice.


1. Seek out. The prophet ezekiel reminds us that God himself goes out in search of his sheep (cf.: ezekiel 34:11-16). The Gospel of Luke also says, “he goes out in search of the one who is lost” (Luke 15:4) not mindful of the risks involved. The shepherd sent by God should not be content with simply rendering a full day’s work and after, taking his rest. As long as there are sheep not yet safe and secure in the sheepfold, he must continue to seek them out. he even goes out of his way deep into the night until he finds the one lost sheep and sets him on his shoulder despite the weariness of the day. The shepherd is called to seek out—to speak, persuade, motivate, encourage the flock entrusted to his care. At other times, as he struggles in his shepherding role when the sheep is stubborn or unwilling to follow, he must go down on his knees in prayer in the tabernacle of the Lord to seek his guidance and help. such is the heart that seeks out even if it means getting out of one’s comfort zone. Jesus had strong words against shepherds who privatize their ministry. 


We are to be shepherds after the heart of God who constantly seek those who are in need. In seeking, we will find because we are willing to take risks. We not only keep our doors open for people to come in but we also go out to seek those who do not wish to enter anymore. Like a good disciple, we must constantly go out of ourselves—the epicenter of our heart must be outside of ourselves. We are to be first centered on Jesus and on others sent by him—for us to care for and love unconditionally. 


Like the early Church in Acts 1:8, we are to witness first to our family (our Jerusalem), then to those who are already in our circle of influence and responsibility (our Judea and samaria), and finally to whosoever the Lord sends us (our ends of the earth). 


Let us always remember: we are not the “hired hand” but chosen “missionary disciples” sent into the world to bring his message of love.


2. Include. Christ knows and loves his sheep. he gives his life for them and no one is a stranger to him (cf. John 10:11-14). he is not a boss to be feared by his flock but a shepherd who calls them by name and walks alongside them (cf. John 10:3-4). he wants to gather the sheep that are not yet of his fold (cf. John 10:16).


We are anointed for God’s people. We are not to choose our own roles and projects but we are to stay close to the real men and women entrusted to our care. No one should be excluded from our heart, our prayers, our warm embrace and generous smile. Like the Father’s loving gaze, we welcome and include everyone. And if at times we have to correct, it is to draw people closer. We stand ready to dirty our hands and accompany everyone who is in need. 


We are to listen patiently and without judgment or bias. We are always available to give comfort and assurance that God’s tender mercy is constantly present. We do not scold those who wander off or lose their way but are always ready to bring them back and resolve difficulties and disagreements. A shepherd’s loving care knows how to include.


3. Rejoice. The joy of Jesus the Good shepherd is not a joy for himself but a joy for others and with othersthe true joy of love. God is “full of joy” (Luke 15:5). his joy is born of forgiveness, of life risen and renewed, of prodigal children who breathe once more the sweet air of home. 


Especially in prayer of contemplation, we will discover God’s consolation and we realize nothing is more powerful than his love. Thus, we experience inner peace and we are happy to be instruments of mercy to bring our people closer to the heart of God. even in seeming sadness, we will not look at it as the norm but as only a step to bring us lasting joy in the arms of our welcoming God.


“The joy of this contemplative love needs to be cultivated. since we were made for love, we know that there is no greater joy than that of sharing good things: ‘Give, take, treat yourself well’ (sirach 14:16). The most intense joys in life arise when we are able to elicit joy in others, as a foretaste of heaven.” (Amoris Laetitia 129)


Like the two Emmaus disciples, let us not focus on our walk of despair in our journey from Jerusalem to Emmaus. Let us believe that Jesus is with us especially during moments of disappointments. And when we recognize him finally, let our hearts burn with his loving presence to accompany us once more in our walk Of hOpe and joy from Wmmaus back to our mission in Jerusalem. 


Let us ponder for some moments how we can train ourselves to seek out, include and rejoice so our hearts will burn with the Love of Jesus our Good shepherd for the flock under our care. Let us come up with practical ways to make this a reality in our shepherding role.

Added on Tuesday, October 11, 2016


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