ILOILO CITY, Feb. 27, 2015 – As the Chinese-Filipinos welcome the Year of the Sheep, a Catholic-school president encouraged the faithful to learn from Pope Francis’ contemplation of the image of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, on how to reach out to others like shepherds to sheep.
On the occasion of the Lunar New Year, Fr. Aristotle C. Dy, SJ, main celebrant and homilist of the parish celebration in Sta. Maria Parish, or Our Lady Queen of China, a personal parish for the Chinese-Filipino community in Iloilo City, said, “Since Pope Francis became the ‘world’s parish priest’ or Chief Shepherd almost two years ago now, time and again he has used the image of the shepherd and sheep to describe the mission of the Christian.”
Jesus, the Good Shepherd
During his homily Dy, who is currently the president of Xavier School, gave three reasons why the image of the Good Shepherd is appropriate and timely for the “Year of the Sheep”.
First, he said, “Because the Shepherd looks after us, we need not be afraid. Jesus knows His sheep intimately. The Good Shepherd, unlike thieves and robbers, cares for the sheep and is ready to give his life for them.”
With a huge photograph of Pope Francis with a sheep on his shoulders projected on the screen in the backgorund, the priest explained the timelessness of the message of Jesus that He is with the faithful, who need not be afraid.
“The Pope said that God cannot stand losing one of his own… He goes and searches… He searches until the end, like the shepherd who goes into the darkness, searching until he finds the sheep. This is our Father: he always comes searching for us,” he added.
Second, inviting his Filipino-Chinese brethren to go beyond their personal spheres in their vocation as Christians, he continued, “As Christians we are all invited to be shepherds. Confident in God’s protective love and mercy, we are invited to share this experience of God with others.”
Smelling like the sheep
Third, following closely Pope Francis’ use of images that are not only visible but also “smellable”, the priest said: “We are asked to smell like the sheep. This is a message that the Pope has emphasized. A shepherd cannot do his job by keeping distance from the sheep. One has to be ready to spend time with people, get one’s hands dirty, and experience reality than focus on ideas.”
Dy, could not help but recall very moving episodes in the present Pontificate, “In the two years that he has been Pope, Francis has visited people living in the margins of society –refugees, asylum seekers, typhoon survivors in Tacloban, the poor, and the sick. He hugs and blesses people, giving them priority over the demands of protocol.
This is a shepherd who wants to smell like his sheep.”
In conclusion, Dy challenged the faithful to a greater sense of their Christian faith and mission in the context of the New Year in the Lunar Calendar and the Year of the Poor in the CBCP’s Nine-year Spiritual Journey, “If we are ready to smell like the sheep, we can create communities that care and that can weather what storms may come.” (Fr. Mickey Cardenas/CBCPNews)