The Transformation of the Shepherds
And so we have come, Lady,
Our day’s work done,
Our love, our hopes, ourselves,
We give to your Son.
This is the final stanza of The Shepherd’s Carol, by Bob Chilcott, which I first heard sung last Christmas by a schola choir. It is a beautiful hymn, so I recommend it to you.
All of the lyrics are worth contemplating, but that stanza has particular significance as we think about ourselves and our call to live great and holy lives. The words are being sung by the shepherds to Mary as they arrive at the side of the infant Jesus.
The shepherds came to offer all they had. Their offering was very different from the offerings of the magi that came later. The shepherds were not wealthy or powerful, and they were tired after a long day of work. But they still came to offer all they had. They offered their minds and their desires. They offered their love and their very selves.
But in offering themselves, the shepherds got something greater in return. Their gift of self was outdone by the infant king, who transformed their hearts. In beholding the Lord and contemplating their presence in his midst, the Lord in his immeasurable generosity transformed their lives for the better.
And later, through his life and sacrificial act on the cross, he opened the gates of heaven for all who believe. He enabled eternal salvation for those who follow him—eternal gazing at him as the shepherds did on that holy night.
What does this shepherd-like offering look like today? We can offer our love in how we treat one another. We can offer our love in prayer and adoration. We can look upon and contemplate our Lord in the Eucharist, as Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds would have looked at the infant Jesus. Words may not be exchanged, but there is a knowing and transforming gaze in a silence more lovely than music. And the words will come through the Holy Scripture, through movements of our conscience, or through the preaching of a priest as we dialogue with the Lord in prayer.
We can offer our very selves. And we must.
What is our calling—our vocation—besides the universal call to be holy saints forever in heaven with God? Are you called to be a Priest? A religious brother or sister? To the consecrated life? To marriage? If we give ourselves to the Lord, if we imitate him and follow his teaching, we can live the great and beautiful lives we were meant to.
Trust and follow into the unknown. Listen to the heavenly call. Give your very self in love. These acts of the shepherds are a model for us all, and in a particular way they provide an example for the seminarian or priest who is called to labor for the Lord and his people.
May you be open to how the Lord is preparing your heart this Advent.