GOOD SHEPHERD SUNDAY
21st April 2018
Vocations Sunday also known as Good Shepherd Sunday is a day to pray for shepherds who will take care of the sheep and not abandon them. To deepen our sense of this intention, we would need to further consider what our Lord means by a Good Shepherd in contrast to a hired man, or one who takes on the name of a shepherd, but exercises it only as a hired man. In this regard, let us appeal to some points from Augustine’s Sermon on Pastors which is usually reproduced in the Office of Readings during the Third and Fourth Week of September.
Jesus’ contrast between the good shepherd and the hired man can be recast in Augustine’s contrast between the pastor who feeds the sheep and the one who uses the sheep to feed himself. Augustine employs the image of milk and wool to drive home his point. Milk is the sustenance the pastor receives from the flock, and wool is the honour he gets from them. The pastor needs both from the flock, but he cannot set them as his goal, or allow his desire for these to keep him away from his primary function of guiding the sheep.
Augustine refers to the example of Paul in his Letter to the Galatians when Paul praised the Galatians for their kindness towards him, but he did not fail to rebuke them when necessary nor did he becoming self-seeking (Gal. 4:14-16): “Paul received the sheep’s milk, as we heard before, and he received their wool to clothe him, but he did not neglect the care of his flock. He did not seek his own interests but those of Jesus Christ.”
Furthermore, Augustine speaks about the motive that must guide the shepherd in the way he seeks to satisfy his needs from his sheep: “So the means of living must be offered only as an act of charity and accepted only out of necessity. The Gospel must not be like something that is bought and sold, the price being the preachers’ livelihood. If you do sell it like that then you are cheapening a thing of great value. Accept the relief of your wants from the people, but receive the reward of your preaching from the Lord; for it is not right for the people to reward their pastors for serving them in the gospel of love. Let the pastors look for reward from the same source that the people look to for salvation.”