During his Regina Caeli address Sunday, Pope Francis spoke of the role of the priest as pastor and “shepherd,” to his community, and how a priest figuratively serves as a “cow” providing nourishment to its “calves.”
Before reciting the midday prayer, the Holy Father reflected on John’s Gospel reading, which spoke of the relationship of Jesus and his disciples, one characterized by love, tenderness, and mutual respect. This relationship serves as the model for Christians’s relationship between themselves and others, Francis said.
Acknowledging that today, “many people propose themselves as ‘shepherds’ of our lives,” Francis stressed that this role only belongs to Christ, “the true Shepherd,” who “gives us life in abundance.”
“Have faith in the Lord who guides us,” Francis said. “But He does not only guide us,” he added, “he accompanies us, he journeys with us.”
He called Christians to listen with a mind and heart “open to His Word,” which will enable them to do three things: nourish their faith, enlighten their consciences, and follow the teachings of the Gospel.
The Pontiff invited those present to pray for all pastors of the Church, including the 13 priests he consecrated that morning, that they can remain faithful to the Lord, as “wise and enlightened guides of the people” that God entrusted to them.
To show how God’s people must “help the shepherd,” he used an analogy about cows and calves given by one of the first Church fathers, Saint Caesarius of Arles: “When the calf is hungry, he goes to the cow, to the mother, to get milk. The cow, however, does not immediately give it to him: it seems that she is keeping it for herself,” he said. “And what does the calf do? He knocks against the cow’s udder with his head so that the milk comes out.”
“It is a beautiful image!” said the Argentine Pontiff.
Directing the faithful to not be bashful, Francis said: “You too must be like this with the shepherds. Always knock at their door, at their heart, so that they give you the milk of doctrine, the milk of grace and the milk of leadership.”
Turning to a shepherd’s role, Francis said that to imitate Jesus, each has to go before his people to “point the way,” to “keep their hope vibrant,” and to “simply be in their midst with his unassuming and merciful presence.” At other times, he said, they will have to “walk after them, helping those who lag behind.”
“May all shepherds be like this!,” he said, again urging the faithful to “bother” their pastors.
Reminding those present it was World Day of Prayer for Vocations, he prayed that young people hear the voice of the Lord, which “is always threatened with being drowned out by many other voices.”
‘Every vocation requires in each case an exodus out of ourselves to center our existence on Christ and his Gospel,” Francis said.
This is why the call to follow Jesus is both “thrilling” and “demanding,” he added. “Its realization always requires that we enter into deep friendship with the Lord so that we are able to live from him and for him.”
After recitation of the Regina Caeli prayer, Francis greeted the Neocatechumenal Community, who during Sundays of the Easter season take the announcement of the risen Jesus to 100 piazzas in Rome and around the world.
He also greeted the State Forest Corps, who are organizing the national celebration of natural preserves; and the Italian Network for Cures and Support in Oncology, whom he encouraged to continue their work with sick people and their relatives.
He gave a special blessing to those who received or are about to receive first Communion or Confirmation, and to the relatives and friends of the new priests of the Diocese of Rome whom he ordained that morning.
Drawing everyone’s attention to Mother’s Day, celebrated in many parts of the world yesterday, the Pontiff invited the faithful to remember mothers and say a prayer for them. “Let us salute mothers!,” he said. “Entrusting them to the mother of Jesus, let us pray to Our Lady for our mothers and for all mothers. “Hail Mary…”
“A big salute to mothers, a big salute!” he said. (D.C.L.)
On Zenit’s Web page:
Full Translation: http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/on-the-good-shepherd