Pope’s message to priests: A shepherd who doesn’t have the whiff of sheep about him probably needs to get better acquainted with the sheep.

goodshepherd

Priests, the Holy Father insisted, must “go out and give ourselves and the Gospel to others, giving what little ointment we have to those who have nothing, nothing at all.” When he shepherds his flock, the priest brings with him the fragrance of his anointing—“the fragrance of the Anointed One, of Christ.”

But that’s not all. A good priest, like a good shepherd, knows his flock. He spends time with them; he lives among them; he shares in their cares and concerns, no matter how trivial they seem. In return, he receives the love and prayers of the people. He receives the gratitude of those he enriches through his ministry. He receives the joy and peace that come from doing the work of the Lord. But there is something else he receives—the telltale sign of a man who lives among his flock, who knows “the realities of their everyday lives, their troubles, their joys, their burdens and their hopes.”

“I call you to this,” said Pope Francis to his priests, “Be shepherds with the odor of sheep!”

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Three “classes” of priests: “The shepherd is to be loved, the hireling is to be tolerated, of the robber must we beware.”

Saint Augustine

A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.
Preaching on this verse, St. Augustine once said, “The shepherd is to be loved, the hireling is to be tolerated, of the robber must we beware.” He refers these three characters to three classes of priests.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, we do well to consider the qualities of these characters and, even more, how the faithful ought to relate to their priests and bishops. Why is it that the people should tolerate the hireling?

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