From the time of our infancy till our death, we need people to lead us. It is sad to say, however, that sometimes it seems like our leaders focus their attention away from us and more toward sending pithy tweets, reality tv, and million-dollar book deals. I have hope that their leadership, by the grace of God, will guide us appropriately. Nevertheless, the essence of my hope comes from the priesthood of Jesus Christ, which all Catholics share, yet, they are “…’ordered to one another’, they differ essentially.” (CCC 1547) It is in the priesthood of Jesus Christ, that we will find good leadership; leadership that points us to Christ in all things and all people.
Today’s Gospel gives us this image of Jesus feeding the crowds with five loaves of bread and two fish from the Gospel of Mark. The beginning of the passage tells us when Jesus saw the vast crowd, he felt sorry for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The only leaders that Israel had were corrupt, incompetent, and self-seeking. Thus, Israel frequently fell into idol worship and could not fulfill their end of the covenant with God. So, Jesus performs one of the biggest miracles of his ministry and prefigures His greatest miracle in giving of Himself in the Eucharist. He multiplies the loaves and fishes. But I think we can draw some conclusions from how Jesus leads the people. He does not lead them away from suffering, neither does He give them a life that numbs them to suffering. He could have done this, though, He is God after all!
I have been blessed in my priestly formation to see many different types of shepherds in the priests who have helped me during my discernment. I am currently doing a pastoral year, this is a year where a seminarian spends a year in a parish, working alongside priests in various ministries. I have had a chance to see and do a lot in my pastoral year, but I think what really helps me is to see how priests shepherd their people in the trenches, so to speak, and outside the classroom setting.
Good shepherds always point the way to Jesus Christ, when the speak and by the way they live their lives. My pastor, Father Joseph Byerley, does this, when he preaches. I have heard him passionately preach about how important the family unit is to human society, how it is being destroyed, and how we can fix it. He boldly told the people, on the Feast day of the Holy Family, that practicing their faith is the only way to keep families strong.
I think this is a good example of something that all of us can do, and that is point the way to Christ. Those who share in the priesthood, whether it be ministerial or baptismal, can help encourage others who have fallen away from the faith or experience times of spiritual desolation. My pastor did this, potentially facing backlash from those who do not share the Catholic concern for the family.
The hope of humanity falls to the leadership of the priesthood of Jesus Christ. Our message today should be of prayer to lead all to Jesus in all things at all times.