Today and tomorrow have the readings from the Gospel of John about the Good Shepherd. This feast day is always a bittersweet day for me because it is the day my former pastor died. A friend called me to let me know prior to arriving at mass that Sunday evening. Fr. B was a great shepherd to many of us. Deeply missed still by so many, he instilled in his flock the message from the First Reading today from 2 Timothy 4: Carry out your ministry fully.
Serving with him for seven years on Pastoral Parish Council (PPC) allowed me to find my own voice in a church setting. He encouraged me to grow and valued my contributions. A friendship developed that I cherished. He one time told me that I knew his essence and I know he was a private person so that surprised me. Several examples come to mind as to the gifts he gave me but the one that is crystal clear is that he helped me to carry out my ministry fully. He entrusted me with a task that was daunting and even though it never flourished, he was satisfied with the results and my commitment to project even though it was not a success. I remained too long on PPC in my mind but because he asked, I stayed until I finally insisted he find another person. The truth is though that PPC allowed me to use my skill set in a way I had never been able to. I blossomed in that setting. I cried at the last meeting, wondering if I would ever find a different place to serve using the very best of me as I had in that group. I perhaps have but that was one of the ministries in my life that I will always be grateful for.
These past two years have made me wonder what it is to carry out my ministry fully in these circumstances of mine. I have rejected the notion of battling and waging war–I will not be a victim to this cancer that resides in my body. I have always said that I win either way–whether I die or live from this disease. I seem to be embracing a ministry of living until I die–of showing people a way that is somewhat different than the norm. I cannot quite grasp it in its entirety but I catch glimpses of it through the eyes of those around me who report that they are watching me carefully and learning from me.
Two years ago I struggled to walk the length of the hallway at the hospital but it would not be long before the doctor released me and set me on my road to recovery. Some challenging lessons came out of my hospital stay. My body was traumatized by the ordeal but my spirit stood strong. My ego kept letting go of expectations and standards as the days went on. I needed to find my voice again and I needed to listen well to the Good Shepherd and shut out the other voices that nattered away. I had to articulate my needs while trying to be respectful of the opinions of others. I listened carefully to what my body was telling me and then trust that I knew what I needed. Any sense of false humility was stripped away–just as my clothes were and my body washed my both male and female health care aides. The painkillers made me loopy and the hallucinations were wild until I crashed. The happy male nurse that I had a few nights made me wish for a kinder persona for myself as he whistled while working. My hospital stay taught me some lessons that I will need for later. Mostly I will need to learn to turn quickly towards the Shepherd’s voice when I hear it.
Carrying out our missions fully is a gift that is entrusted to us by the Good Shepherd. The wolf will try to scatter the sheep when they feel vulnerable. The Good Shepherd knows this and will make every attempt possible to ensure our safety–even if it means risking his own Divine life. Whatever your mission, may you carry it out fully, knowing that you are safe to do so and protected by Jesus.
What is your mission that is entrusted to you to carry out fully?
Who in your life calls forth and affirms that mission?
Good Shepherd, thank you for the mission that you have gifted me with. Help me to carry it out fully and with joy. Thank you for those who call forth and affirm the task you have blessed me with. May they know fully their own missions and be able to embrace them for the greater good and for your glory. Amen.