Tag Archives: Good Shepherd

The passing of Emiliano and the Good Shepherd

Yesterday in Plan Grande we sent Emiliano home to God.

Emiliano had been injured by electrocution several years ago and had been confined to his bed for several months. The pastor came at one point to anoint him and hear his confession. Communion ministers came regularly to share the body of Christ with him.

I met him first a few weeks ago when I went to preside at a funeral celebration of his father in their house.

Emiliano was so thin, emaciated, but at peace. “Me ha traido lo más especial”, he told me. “You’ve brought what is most special” – the Body of Christ.

After the funeral celebration in their home, I talked with his brother, who had cared for his father and his brother for years. He made sure they were fed and well taken care of. I later learned that he had been imprisoned for six years on false charges.

I was thinking about Emiliano yesterday morning. Then a son of my neighbor, Gloria, one of the Communion ministers, came and told me that he had died.

I found out later that he died in great peace. He had not been eating for several days and was suffering great pain, crying out when someone tried to move him. But Friday morning, he ate a little and then fell asleep. Waking up, he prayed, “Lord, have mercy, Lord,” and passed on to the Lord.

About 2 o’clock Gloria arrived and told me that the family was asking for a funeral. She was willing to do it but asked me. Though I really believe in avoiding gatherings, I said yes, but asked that there be careful spacing of people in the church.

I don’t have access to the English funeral rites, but in the Spanish liturgical book I have there is an invitation to prayer. In part it reads,

“Que el Señor sea misericordioso con nuestro hermano, para que, libre de la muerte, absuelto de sus culpas, reconciliados con el Padre y llevado sobre los hombros del buen Pastor, merezca gozar de la perenne alegría de los santos en el séquito del rey eterno.””
“May the Lord be merciful with our brother, so that, freed from death, absolved of his faults, reconciled with the Father, and carried over the shoulders of the good Shepherd, he may merit to enjoy the everlasting joy of the saints in the entourage of the eternal king.”

Each time I pray this over the body of someone who has died I cannot help sharing the beauty of one image – the one who has died being carried on the shoulders of the Good Shepherd. I often ask people to reflect on this image, how God loves us so much that he carries us. I sometimes encourage people to think of the deceased person being held in God’s arms, “chineado” as we say here in Spanish, a phrase often used in terms of a person holding an infant or a small child in her arms.

God carries us – on his shoulders or, as a mother, in loving arms.

Praying over the coffin of Emiliano, I rejoiced that God was holding him – and that Emiliano felt the love of God, even as, I believe, he felt that love in the midst of his pain.

May Emiliano rest in God’s loving arms – and may we remember this.

As if God continually tries to penetrate my heart, this morning I prayed Psalm 28. Verse 9 reads:

Save your people and bless their heritage;
Be their shepherd and carry them forever.

Be our shepherd, Lord, and carry us forever.

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Image from the cemetery of Mount Saviour Monastery, taken from their webpage

The Good Shepherd – two perspectives

I have two homilies in me on this Sunday’s readings. I don’t know which one I’ll share, though I might end up sharing both, since I’ll probably be preaching in two different celebrations – in a Celebration of the Word in a remote village and at a Mass in one of the municipalities in the parish.

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The first perspective on  Jesus as the Good Shepherd that I want to share is of a shepherd who encourages and consoles us.

Jesus care for us, the sheep. He knows us – with all our faults and all our gifts. He wants the best for us. John in the second reading reminds us that “Beloved, we are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.”

Jesus seeks us out. Knowing us, as sometimes lost and wandering, he has come from the Father to seek us out. He finds us even in the brambles and carries us back to the flock. If he carries us on his shoulders, it’s quite likely that our bowels will be loosened in fright and we’ll crap down his back. But he loves us with all our crap – and wants to carry us back to the security of the flock.

Jesus also guards and protects us. When we are with Him, we may face dangers – but He is there at our side.

But he loves us so much that He willingly gives us life for us. Yes, it is dangerous and fearful. He did sweat blood in the Garden of Gethsemane. But He knows that giving up oneself brings life.

Jesus, God-made-flesh, is the Good Shepherd who is for us.

But the second perspective is one that challenges us who serve the People of God, God’s flock.

Are we like the Good Shepherd?

Do we know our sheep, as Jesus knows His sheep? Do we have the smell of sheep from getting down into the mud with them?

Do we seek out the lost sheep, instead of being content with the faithful few? Do we go out into the brambles and offer the lost a way out, a way of hope? Or, do we want a comfortable church?

Are we willing to pick up the sheep and carry them home with tenderness? They’ll be dirty and smelling – and may crap on us.

Finally, are we willing to give our lives for them? This may mean martyrdom – which is a gift that God gives to a few. But then there is the dying that happens every day when people serve others in love, go the extra mile to comfort someone, forgive even their enemies?

Are we like the Good Shepherd or are we hired hands, who are content with our little rituals and minimal duties?

But, don’t worry. Even if we are mere hired hands, the Good Shepherd seeks us out and, with love, brings us back and offers us another chance to love.


The image is taken from the web page of Mount Saviour Monastery, a close up of the statue in their cemetery.

Stinking sheep

Today is Good Shepherd Sunday when we contemplate Christ the Good Shepherd.

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Yet, sheep stink, at least two friends have confirmed.

We have this image of cuddly lambs – but sheep stink.

In the Chrism Mass on Holy Thursday, Pope Francis said that the church needs “shepherds living ‘with the smell of the sheep,’ shepherds in the midst of their flock…”

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You shall know the real shepherds by their smell and by their willingness to live with the smells of their flocks.

I know what this means when I give a ride to a campesino whose clothes give off an odor of sweat from working under the hot sun in his cornfield, when I sit next to a woman who smells of the smoke from the wood fire where she has spent many hours making tortillas and preparing meals. At times it’s difficult.

Today is the day of prayer for religious vocations. Do our priests and our bishops smell like their sheep? Do we who work in the church know that “odor of poverty”?

I know that many women religious live with the smell of their sheep, working among the poorest in the US and throughout the world. The Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus and other followers of Charles de Foucauld smell of their sheep, as they live and work among the poor. I know priests here who spend their days out in the remote villages.

What I find most encouraging about Pope Francis is his concern as Archbishop of Buenos Aires to send priests to the villas miserias, the slums, as well as his personal willingness to connect with the poor and marginalized.

It’s a challenge – and not all are called to this. But if we really want to follow the Good Shepherd, all of us probably need to be out among the poor, at least some time each week.

If we do not know the “odor of poverty,” can we expect to share the “odor of sanctity”?