‘Jesus the Good Shepherd,’ A Model for Richmond Seminarians

With gratitude and joy, we unveil Catholic Diocese of Richmond vocations poster for 2018-2019!

For this year’s poster design, we have chosen a beautiful mosaic of Jesus the Good Shepherd from the 5th Century Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna, Italy.

The image of Jesus as Good Shepherd is particularly fitting for our reflection at this moment in the life of the Church. The Body of Christ is experiencing a profound crisis. Laypeople and clergy alike are crying out for greater accountability, zeal and holiness from its leaders. As Bishop Knestout recently pointed out in his Pastoral Letter, From Tragedy to Hope: “We are a community struggling to make sense of truths and untruths. We are angry and discouraged.”  Our response of “anguish” and “revulsion” is understandable — but we must never lose hope because Jesus is a very good shepherd.

Just listen to these words found in Matthew’s gospel:

“At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 9:36)

Jesus the Good Shepherd knows and understands our pain in these days of scandal. In fact, His Sacred Heart is moved with pity for each one of us — He recognizes that we are troubled and perhaps feel like sheep without a shepherd!

Jesus is a shepherd who takes action

Perhaps more importantly — Jesus fully intends to do something about our pain. He’s not content to commiserate with us, as important as that is. He is a Good Shepherd who takes action. He means to heal us, bring back the straying sheep, and chase off wolves once and for all.

But how will he go about doing all this? In the very next verse, we receive our answer:

“The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”

Notice: Our Lord connects the lack of shepherds with the need to pray for “laborers!” That means Jesus won’t leave us alone. He wants to provide shepherds for his people — Shepherds that won’t serve themselves, but rather will freely choose to abide in him, the Good Shepherd.

Christ came not to be served, but to serve

That’s why the image on this year’s vocations poster is so fitting: Jesus the Good Shepherd is the model for every seminarian discerning the Priesthood of Jesus Christ.

The Word became flesh and dwelt among us not to be served, but to serve. He came to lay down his life for the flock. He did not surround himself with luxury, privilege, or any shred of entitlement. He came in the poverty of a meek and humble shepherd, tenderly guiding his flock toward the Father’s heart.

No call to the priesthood of Jesus Christ is intelligible apart from this model of the Good Shepherd. Now more than ever, the Church needs leaders who serve the people of God with humility and tenderness. We need sacrificial priests who first recognize the sufferings of the flock and then choose to lay down their lives for them by administering the sacraments, preaching, teaching, and caring for the poor.

Seminarians need your help

Please know that our seminarians rely on your prayers in order to properly discern God’s will and follow after Jesus Christ the Good Shepherd. Pray for them to be given perseverance, clarity, fidelity and zeal. And as Jesus Himself exhorted, make sure to ask the Master of the harvest to send even more men to say yes to this life of service in the vineyard of the Lord.

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