One Flock, One Shepherd - Lesson and Discussion
“there will be one flock, one shepherd”
Before his ascension into heaven, Jesus placed Peter as the shepherd of His flock.[i] Jesus asked Peter three times to feed His sheep, signifying the number of times that Peter denied Jesus. “In this way the prophecy made to Peter before the Passion was fulfilled: but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail; and when you have turned again, strengthen your brethren. (Lk. 22:32)”[ii] St. Peter, as the good shepherd to the Church on earth, tells us in his first letter, “By his wounds you have been healed. For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.”[iii]
What does Jesus mean by “A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep”? Jesus is speaking of His death on the cross. St. John Chrysostom writes: "..he is speaking of his passion, making it clear this would take place for the salvation of the world and that he would go to it freely and willingly". Pope St. Gregory the Great comments on this passage saying, “He did what he said he would do; he gave his life for his sheep, and he gave his body and blood in the Sacrament to nourish with his flesh the sheep he had redeemed.”[iv] St. Peter, along with every Pope after him, carries out this example in his willingness to die for the Church. The symbol of the shepherd that Jesus takes on is passed on to St. Peter who is to feed and guard Jesus’ flock.
What is the mission of the Shepherd? “Peter’s mission is one of guarding Our Lord’s whole flock without limitations. Feed is equivalent to ‘direct and govern’. Peter is made the shepherd and guide for the whole Church. As the Second Vatican Council points out, Jesus Christ ‘put Peter at the head of the other Apostles, and in him he set up a lasting and visible source and foundation of the unity of both faith and communion’.[v] Ubi Petrus ibi Ecclesia means where Peter is, there is Christ’s Church. In union with him, we know with certainty the way that leads to salvation.
In the first reading and responsorial psalm, we hear of Jesus as the “cornerstone”. “He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone.’”[vi] While the images of a cornerstone and shepherd are different, they convey the same message, that Jesus is the only way to salvation. “For there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”[vii]
Where do we, the Church, fit in this image of the Good Shepherd? We are the sheep and the flock. “The Church is, accordingly, a sheepfold, the sole and necessary gateway to which is Christ. It is also the flock of which God himself foretold that he would be the shepherd, and whose sheep, even though governed by human shepherds, are unfailingly nourished and led by Christ himself, the Good Shepherd and Prince of Shepherds, who gave his life for his sheep.”[viii]
[See also Link to Liturgy Lesson - The Dignity of Man]
What does Jesus mean when He says that there are other sheep? Jesus is speaking of the Gentiles. He is also calling attention to the need for all of God’s people to be brought into one flock. “In very truth, there are still innumerable sheep who are far from the fold, but it was just these whom Jesus meant when he said: ‘They will heed my voice’ (Jn. 10:16). Yet how can they heed unless there is someone to preach the gospel to them?” This task starts with the head of the flock on earth, the Pope, but also, “Every believer is involved in this pressing duty: each must work with prayer and sacrifice to lead to Christ’s fold the sheep who are ignorant, far-off, scattered, and wandering, so that all may become ‘one flock’ and all may have ‘one shepherd’ (ib.)”.[ix]
Who are the wolves? Satan is the wolf who tries to separate Christ’s sheep from Him. Saint Augustine said, “The wolf is the devil, and they that follow him; according to Matthew, Which come to you in sheep’s’ clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” What are other examples of “wolves” in Church history? One example is from the Protestant Reformation when unfaithful priests, religious, and laity scattered the "sheep" all across Europe. Other examples are Catholic politicians, who vote in favor of abortion and gay marriage; Catholic priests, religious, and/or laity who teach false doctrine or stand in opposition to the teaching of the Magisterium, or governments that openly persecute Catholics. Also Hitler, who was a baptized Catholic, was a thief in that he promoted paganism and a robber by violence and persecution against the Catholic Church.
[See also Link to Liturgy Lesson - Leaving Us with Shepherds]
VIDEO – USCCB President Sharply Criticizes HHS Mandate - POP CULTURE CONNECTION – 1:59
In January 2012, President Obama, along with HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius who is a Catholic, mandated that within one year all Catholic institutions (hospitals, universities, schools, etc.) must provide birth control, contraceptives, sterilizations, and Abortifacient in their health care services. This is directly against the teachings and beliefs of the Catholic Church. Cardinal Dolan, President of the United States Council of Catholic Bishops, speaks against this attack on religious freedom. He is being the shepherd of his sheep.
On the USCCB website the Bishop have an article entitled “Six Things Everyone Should Know About the HHS Mandate” Below are the six things. If you would like to read more go to the following link: http://usccbmedia.blogspot.com/2012/02/six-things-everyone-should-know-about.html?spref=tw
1. The mandate does not exempt Catholic charities, schools, universities, or hospitals.
2. The mandate forces these institutions and others, against their conscience, to pay for things they consider immoral.
3. The mandate forces coverage of sterilization and abortion-inducing drugs and devices as well as contraception.
4. Catholics of all political persuasions are unified in their opposition to the mandate.
5. Many other religious and secular people and groups have spoken out strongly against the mandate.
6. The federal mandate is much stricter than existing state mandates.
ACTIVITY – The Bishops (Shepherd’s) Speak
ALL United States Bishops have spoken out publically against the HHS Mandate. Find out what your Shepherd has written to you. Use the link above to locate your province and diocese then read you Bishop’s letter.
The Catholic Church is set up with such a structure and hierarchy that we can speak out and mobilize the Body of Christ – Church militant against the evils of our time. We will march with our shepherds? Not only does the Catholic Church have the hierarchy, but we also have the ability to meet in large gatherings. We have Shrines and Cathedrals located around the nation. We have common liturgies and prayers. We are one in prayer, believe and morals.
How do we stay away from the wolves and remain close to Jesus? We stay close to Jesus by hearing His voice. The Gospel says that the sheep know His voice. Where do we hear Jesus’ voice today? We hear it through Sacred Scripture, the Magisterium, and Sacred Tradition. The best way to become familiar with Christ’s voice and recognize it is to study the Scriptures through the teaching authority of the Magisterium and faithfully receive the Sacraments. Remember that Jesus left us with shepherds, our Bishops who can be traced back to the Apostles, along with the head of the Bishops, Peter's successor, the Pope, who helps guide, feed, and tend Jesus’ flock. “Christ has given his Church sureness in doctrine and a fountain of grace in the Sacraments. He has arranged things so that there will always be people to guide and lead us, to remind us constantly of our way. There is an infinite treasure of knowledge available to us: the word of God kept safe by the Church, the grace of Christ administered in the Sacraments and also the witness and example of those who live by our side and have known how to build with their good lives on a road of faithfulness to God.”[x]