Reflection by Rev. Leonard N. Peterson
No matter how speedily our computers compute, or how “Wi” your “fi” is, the image we hear today of God’s Son as “The Good Shepherd” persists in popularity and persuasive power. Chalk that up to our unexpressed longing for a gentler human landscape, free of the hard edges technology prefers to give our interactions with one another. Often those are more blunt than beneficial. At any rate, this perennial power of the Holy Word of Scripture is evident. As a result, we can easily summon to mind that familiar painting or statue of a virile Christ shouldering a helpless lamb. Equally easy to think of ourselves as that needy creature, wordlessly longing for the solace that is our salvation. Admittedly we can be so lost at times that we wonder whether or not we will find our way back to a place of peace.
Mature Christian living will not let us ignore for long the ugly fact that there are many bad shepherds out there who lurk around our pending decisions. They secretly laugh at our weak faith in the Lord if things don’t work out as we had hoped. Interestingly, the Greek word John uses for “good” in this instance means “ideal” or “noble,” and not simply “good at.” That keeps us from falling into the fallacy, which holds that only the person who is productive is worthwhile. That, in turn, foments fear of retirement among many people of a certain age, thinking that their personal value will go down.
This Sunday happens to be “The World Day of Prayer for Vocations” by our Church. Unless you’ve been vacationing on Venus the last few decades, you have noted the diminished number of priests and religious. Easy to ascribe that fact to the tired canard that such a life is against nature or is just plain odd. Odd, I’ll grant you. But it is so good for those so-called. More serious claims for those lesser numbers can be attributed to the awful scandals we have experienced. That last is why I call today’s seminarians and novices “heroes.” Truth to tell, the Holy Spirit obviously wants to wake up the “sleeping giant” of lay participation in Church life to do even more. Yet the fact remains that our Church is built around the Holy Eucharist. Without the priest, there is
no Eucharist. But in this endeavor, we can never neglect or underestimate the power of prayer. That’s what today is all about. We do have to beg the “Harvest master” for an increase in “field laborers.”
Here is a story of one who said “yes” to his calling. Father Vincent Capodanno, a chaplain with the Marine Corps, was killed in battle on September 4, 1967, somewhere in the Quezon Valley in Vietnam. The last section of the official citation of the Congressional Medal of Honor, awarded posthumously, reads as follows: Upon encountering a wounded corpsman in the direct line of fire of an enemy machine gunner positioned approximately fifteen yards away, Chaplain Capodanno rushed a daring attempt to aid and assist the mortally wounded corpsman. At that instant, only inches from his goal, he was struck down by a burst of machine gunfire. By his heroic conduct on the battlefield, and his inspiring example, Lt. Capodanno upheld the finest tradition of
the U.S. Naval Service. He gallantly gave his life in the cause of freedom.”