Was there a good point in the sermon you heard for your Mass of Sunday obligation?
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Here’s a mini-sermon, a bloggy fervorino for this Sunday.
For a couple days one of you readers has been sending me high resolution images of beautiful old holy cards. They simultaneously reflect the deep piety of the people and of the era of their making, and they also increase piety by looking at them. I am sincerely moved by the images, which can be both simple and packed. Some people might dub them old-fashioned or even saccharine, I don’t care. They work!
Because today is, in the older, traditional Roman Rite, nicknamed Good Shepherd Sunday, here is a lovely card which I received. It shamelessly mixes metaphors (shepherd, tossed boat), but aptly sums up what our own attitude ought to be in the chaos of the Church today. It is also perfect for this Sunday. Have a good look, then read the readings for the day, below.
The jaded might scratch their heads and wonder why the lamb is in a boat. Maybe the lamb got lost? I say lamb, because its age and size are proportioned to the Lord, who appears to be young. I suppose this was a card intended for children.
Now consider today’s Epistle, in which the Lord is described as being both Shepherd and Bishop of the soul.
Lesson from the first letter of St Peter the Apostle
1 Pet 2:21-25
Dearly beloved, Christ suffered for us, leaving you an example, that you should follow His steps who did no sin, neither was guile found in His mouth. Who when He was reviled, did not revile: when He suffered, He threatened not, but delivered Himself to him that judged Him unjustly: who His own self bore our sins in His body upon the tree: that we, being dead to sins, should live to justice; by whose stripes you were healed. For you were as sheep going astray: but you are now converted to the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls.
The disciples knew the Lord Jesus in the breaking of bread. Allelúia
I am the good Shepherd: and I know My sheep, and Mine know Me.
Now let’s bring in another text, the Collect of the Mass, as an interpretive aid. It says:
O God, who, by the humility of Thy Son, didst lift up a fallen world, grant unending happiness to Thy faithful: that those whom Thou hast snatched from the perils of endless death, Thou mayest cause to rejoice in everlasting days….
The perils of death… endless death. In our holy card, things aren’t looking good for the lamb’s future… if it weren’t for the Lord, look over him. In the image, the Lord is the lamb’s Shepherd (pastor) and, literal, Over-Looker (episcopus).
However, can drill a little more into the boat and bishop connection? What’s with the lamb in the storm-tossed boat and Christ as the “Bishop of our souls”?
The word for Bishop in 1 Peter 2:25 is episkopos (epi-, which intensifies, and –skopos, “seer”, as in English telescope, microscope, etc.), so, “keen observer”. In ancient times the episkopos inspected troops before for battle. In the Church, the episkopos, the bishop, inspects, guides and governs the soldier pilgrims of the Church Militant, He makes sure that they are ready for what is to come so that they can attain their goal: victory and return to the fatherland. A similar figure and language shows up in our liturgical prayers. Another image like the episcopus, and also military, is the gubernator. Gubernator, in our sumptuous Lewis & Short Dictionary is from guberno, “to steer or pilot a ship”. Logically, it also means “to direct, manage, conduct, govern, guide”. The Liddell, Scott, Jones Greek Lexicon, or LSJ, says that kubernao is “steer”, “drive” and, metaphorically “guide, govern” and then “act as a pilot”. The episcopus and the gubernator do pretty much the same thing, one on the land, the other on the sea… or, ecclesiastically, in the see.
Look again at our image, above. Christ is both Good Shepherd of the soul (hence, the lamb), and Bishop of the soul (hence the boat). He is our true Captain, as it were, in this storm-tossed barque which is the Church.
Cleanse my heart and my lips, O almighty God, who didst cleanse the lips of the prophet Isaias with a burning coal, and vouchsafe, through Thy gracious mercy, so to purify me, that I may worthily announce Thy holy Gospel. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.
Give me Thy blessing, O Lord. The Lord be in my heart and on my lips, that I may worthily and in a becoming manner, proclaim His holy Gospel. Amen.
P. The Lord be with you.
S. And with thy spirit.
Continuation ? of the Holy Gospel according to John
R. Glory be to Thee, O Lord.
At that time Jesus said to the Pharisees: I am the good Shepherd. The good Shepherd giveth his life for his sheep. But the hireling, and he that is not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming and leaveth the sheep and flieth: and the wolf catcheth and scattereth the sheep: and the hireling flieth, because he is a hireling, and he hath no care for the sheep. I am the good Shepherd: and I know Mine, and Mine know Me, as the Father knoweth Me, and I know the Father: and I lay down My life for My sheep. And other sheep I have that are not of this fold: them also I must bring, and they shall hear My voice, and there shall be one fold and one shepherd.
R. Praise be to Thee, O Christ.
S. By the words of the Gospel may our sins be blotted out.