The first reading this weekend is a tough one for priests to hear just now: we can tend to blame ourselves for the fact that many of the Lord’s flock seem to have scattered and wandered away. But there is reassurance in the second half of the same reading, where the Lord promises that he is going to look after his flock himself, making sure they find good pasture and freeing them from fear and terror.
The Gospel tells of Jesus listening to his apostles recounting the tales of everything they have done and taught during their first practice mission and wanting to take them away to a lonely place. I’ve always thought that was because they were worn out after all the hard work, but this week Marian Tolley (whom you may remember speaking to us at all our Masses one weekend in February about the power of the Word of God) suggested another reason: they would be tired, but maybe they were also ‘over the top’ with excitement at the power they had received to heal and teach. Maybe Jesus wanted them to calm down and remember that it was the Father who was doing the healing and teaching through them. Whatever the reason, when he saw the crowd who had followed them, he was so moved with compassion for them that he set himself to teach them at some length.
At a recent celebration for those who had been ordained 25, 40, 50, 60 or even 70 years, someone calculated that the jubilarians had given over 1,000 year of service between them. Last week the Council of Priests was discussing new ways of ensuring that our priests receive the support they need: pastoral care, spiritual direction, professional supervision and continuing formation, not forgetting that our bishops, on whom that responsibility falls, also need pastoral care!
Please pray for all our priests, the few who are young or middle aged and the majority who are beyond middle age (bearing in mind that the average age is now over 70!), especially those who may be feeling tired or disheartened, or who may have lost sight of the Father’s hand in everything they do. May they find rest and renewal during the summer months and may they be joined by new shepherds the Lord will raise up to lead his flock.