Caring for the Flock
June 7, 2019
We are coming to the end of the Easter season which culminates in the beautiful celebration of Pentecost on Sunday. During this season the first reading at Mass gave us inspiring accounts of the early Church as recorded in the Acts of the Apostles. There were glowing stories of how the preaching of the gospel led to the conversion of many Jews and Gentiles. At the same time we read about the persecution and trials of the apostles and disciples when they experienced rejection and imprisonment. Most of the twelve Apostles suffered martyrdom. The Book of Acts ends with St. Paul in Rome under house arrest until he is too is martyred. Given the fact that the gospel was being planted in a pagan Roman Empire that advocated emperor worship, it should not surprise us that Christians suffered so much.
What inspired and drove the early Christians to evangelize the Mediterranean world in such a hostile environment? Ultimately it comes down to love of God and love of neighbor. The great commandment which Jesus preached and lived is what gave impetus to Christians. Likewise the great commission given to the Apostles was to preach the gospel to all nations. This mandate is bestowed upon all believers through our baptism. The Holy Spirit will show each of us where and how we should share the good news about Jesus.
In the gospel today, Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved him. Of course Peter loved Jesus. But Peter denied that he knew Jesus three times, so Jesus was giving Peter an opportunity to reverse himself. Jesus said “feed my lambs… tend my sheep… feed my sheep” to emphasize the serious responsibility of Peter and the Apostles to watch over the flock of Christ. They are his flock, first and foremost. That same responsibility carries over to the ordained clergy today.
Traditionally we have looked upon the leadership of the Church in a threefold manner: to teach, to govern, and to sanctify. Bishops and priests give spiritual nourishment to their flock in a variety of ways each day especially through preaching and administering the sacraments. They are trained and empowered to bring God’s love and mercy to his people. By extension we can say that parents have the same threefold task in raising their children. But all of us have a share in this ministry of caring for the flock. It is the love of Jesus that impels us to do as the Apostles did in their time, even at the risk of persecution from non believers. May the Spirit of God anoint each of us as we strive to bring the good news to the people of our day.
Fr. Michael Salvagna, CP