Dear friends: I join you in expressing deep appreciation first to Father Bruce, who welcomed his assignment to Sacred Heart and St. Patrick with great enthusiasm, joy, and generosity. I also want to thank the Congregation of the Holy Redeemer for its generosity in staffing these wonderful and growing parishes and in making available to us such a wonderfully qualified priest as Father Bruce. And following the lines of today’s readings, let us reflect for a few moments on the important role of a pastor as the shepherd of his parish.
II. The Role of the Pastor
A. In today’s Gospel, Jesus the Good Shepherd says, “My sheep hear my voice.” This means that Jesus has spoken to the members of his flock. When he speaks to us, especially in Scripture, Jesus does not merely give us information about God. First and foremost, Jesus wants us to know how much God love us. The Lord wants us to see into the loving heart of God, his heavenly Father. That is why he gives us the gift of the Holy Spirit: so that we can welcome his Word into our hearts, convinced that he really does know and love us in a deep and personal way.
B. The first task of a pastor is to proclaim the living Word of Jesus. We, your bishops, priests, & deacons must first listen to voice of the Good Shepherd; we must pray over his words and allow them to take deep root in our hearts. Then we are called to preach the Word to those entrusted to our care. The Word that your pastor will preach is not mere information about God. Rather, he will preach in the Name of Jesus, the Holy Redeemer and Shepherd, so that you will be able to see into the merciful heart of God and welcome the Lord Jesus, the Good Shepherd, into your hearts and homes. And not only will your pastor preach from the pulpit, but he will bear witness to God’s word by his manner of life; he will see to the formation of young people and families in the faith, thru religious education programs, Archbishop Borders School, & many other ways… …so that Jesus will be able to say of every person in this parish, “My sheep hear my voice!”
C. In the reading from the Book of Revelation, we are taken up to heaven where the Triune God is constantly worshipped. There we see enthroned the Good Shepherd who is also the Lamb of God and all the saints are worshipping the Lamb with inexpressible joy. Just as the saints worship the Lamb of God in heaven, so too your pastor will lead you in worshipping the Lamb of God here on earth, both here at this altar and at the altar of St. Patrick’s Parish. He will lead you in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist, the banquet of Christ’s Sacrifice and share with you the Body and Blood of Christ, as well as all the Sacraments of the Church, especially the Sacrament of Reconciliation. As you open your hearts to God’s Word and worship the Lord in spirit and truth, let his love take deep root in your lives, such that you begin to think as he does, to love as he does, and to bear witness to that love in your families and your work. Your Pastor, acting in the person of Christ, celebrates the Mass and sacraments, you will share in a partial way in the joy of the saints in heaven, looking ahead to that day when you will see God face to face and worship the Lamb with all the saints and angels.
D. In the first reading we saw how the Apostles went about preaching the Gospel. They didn’t just wait for people to come to them; they brought the Gospel to people. So they went to the synagogue and the public square to proclaim the Name of Jesus. Soo too, your pastor, Father Bruce, will work closely with all of you and with the staff and lay leadership of the parish, in continuing to welcome warmly all who come to this parish church and in extending its outreach to all who are seeking a spiritual home, especially to so many Spanish-speaking parishioners. Often that outreach is extended through works of charity and mercy by which those whose faith has grown cold recognize once again the merciful heart of the Good Shepherd. That outreach should include families in need of healing as well as young people, helping them to know the Lord’s love, and to find and accept whatever vocation God has in mind for them, including the priesthood and religious life. “My sheep,” Jesus says, “hear my voice!”
A. As Father Bruce begins his ministry among you, I urge you to give him your support, your love, and your cooperation. Help him to fulfill the mission of this parish to be a light brightly visible at Sacred Heart in Highlandtown, at St. Patrick’s on Broadway, and far beyond – May this community of faith be a beacon of faith and hope that will convince many that Jesus our Good Shepherd truly does know us and love us more than we know and love ourselves.
B. For the Lord has commanded us, as once he commanded the Apostles: “I have made you a light to the Gentiles that you may be an instrument of salvation to the ends of the earth!”
C. May God bless us and keep us always in his love!