22 February, Monday — Shepherds and Sheep

Feb 22 — Feast of the Chair of St Peter, the Apostle

The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Rome, Italy has been celebrated from the early days of the Christian era on Jan 18, in commemoration of the day when St. Peter held his first service in Rome. The feast of the Chair of St. Peter at Antioch commemorating his foundation of the See of Antioch, has also been long celebrated at Rome on Feb 22. At each place, a chair (cathedra) which the Apostle had used while presiding at Mass was venerated.

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This feast has been kept in Rome since the fourth century, as a symbol of the unity of the Church.

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1 Pet 5:1-4
Mt 16: 13-19

Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly...

Oohhh goodness me! How funny that God should choose me to write the reflection for today. This is something that I have been trying to work through for the past year – shepherds and sheep.
I have been very conscious and intentional about going for confession since my conversion. Given the pandemic, we can’t just saunter into a priest’s office or accost him on the way to the canteen; just to hear your confession. So one sunny afternoon in November, having made my appointment with my regular confessor, I made my way to his office.

The Sacrament of Reconciliation is one of the most beautiful and unique parts of our Catholic faith. In His abundant love and mercy, Jesus established this sacrament so that we can obtain forgiveness for our sins, feel His enduring and abundant love and be reconciled with God and the Church. I will be washed clean and be at peace!

My last confession will be one I may never forget. It lasted 45 mins. I am not sure if my confessor was having a bad day but it was a ‘bad’ confession, for me, and maybe for him too. During the session, I was speechless and dumbfounded. My mind was racing to comprehend what was happening, my heart pounding, my tears streaming in a mix of shock and anger. Was I supposed to defend myself while he desecrated me? How could he judge me when he knows only one side of the story? Should I even tell my story? Did he just make a judgement based on his own understanding? Did he prescribe steps I should take without knowing what I have already done?

The tone and manner in which he delivered his response was not out of concern nor love. I felt like I was on trial, and the sentence pronounced. “If you keep cutting people out of your life, you will end up alone!” Now where did that come from? Many things were said which were unfair and condemnatory. And when it all ended and he gave me my absolution, I felt as though I wasn’t actually absolved. I came out feeling worse. My confessor stepped outside the boundary of confession. I wasn’t seeking a counselling session, nor was I seeking his advice. Where was the sense of love and peace I was meant to receive? Now I have experienced first-hand what it’s like to be wounded by a priest.

As such, the first reading of today made it hard for me to reconcile what shepherds are meant to be to the flock. Be the shepherds of the flock of God that is entrusted to you: watch over it, not simply as a duty but gladly. Not simply as a duty but gladly, because God wants it. These were the words that St. Peter addressed to the pastoral leaders of the church. As I mulled over this passage over the past few days, it is as much for the religious as it is for us. It is God’s instruction for us as Priest, Prophet, and King! We too have a responsibility and calling to be shepherds of the flock entrusted to us – our families, our children, nieces and nephews, and even the priest who hurt us. They may be ministerial priests, but we are the common priesthood! We share in the priesthood of Christ. It is our responsibility to bring Christ to the people we encounter.

For me, it is to live out my life as planned by God. I’ll admit I don’t know what my purpose is. I always beat myself up over this. But in recent years, I have come to the realisation that we will never know this till we come face to face with God. So I simply let go and let Him guide me on this journey. It doesn’t matter what others think — if they feel that I am wasting my productive years not pursuing what the world deems as good and ‘fruitful’, if they judge that what I am doing might seem ‘crazy’, if they think I am fanatical about my ministry or God. Who cares what others think? What is more important to me is I must act as Christ would, each and every day of this life.

And so for today, as much as I still hurt from my confession, I pray for this priest and all priests; that they will know and live out their calling as Shepherds, that they will do what God calls them to do for the good of His people.

(Today’s OXYGEN by Geraldine Nah)

Prayer: Dear Father, I thank you for our Bishop, the priests in our diocese and our religious priests. I pray you will continue to nourish them with your love and protection. I pray especially for those who are suffering, those who are questioning their priesthood, who have lost their way and those who hurt their sheep. Grace them with your loving presence. Bring to mind their first love, may they feel the passion of being in love with You again.

Thanksgiving: Thank you for the men that you have fashioned to be our Shepherds. I thank the parents of our priests, who so graciously and generously gifted us of their sons. May you be blessed!

2 thoughts on “22 February, Monday — Shepherds and Sheep

Add yours

  1. Geraldine. Thank you so much for this reflection, heartfelt, personal, yet universal. So much of what you said is so grand… So needed to hear, to believe, to feel, and to live.

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