Fourth Sunday of Easter
JN 10:1-10
May 3, 2020

Our local “good shepherd” has been broadcasting liturgies so that the faithful can continue to enjoy at least “a sense” of communal prayer until public worship resumes. In addition, Bishop Gruss has also maintained a steady stream of suggestions and encouragement to the priests and pastors of the Diocese of Saginaw. Recently, he forwarded a publication from the Department of Music and Liturgy of Alverno College, Wisconsin. The material was captioned:

A New Birth to a Living Hope Praying through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

The Bishop passed on the collection of Scripture passages, prayers, and litanies hoping to support “domestic church prayer” or private prayer of families in our homes.

On this “Good Shepherd Sunday,” one of the prayers published by the Catholic College comes to mind in a special way. The “litany” presents very much like “prayers of the faithful” that we raise up after professing our faith at Sunday Mass. The intercessory prayer focuses on those suffering as a result of Covid-19, but it also raises up people, professions, and vocations that are at greatest risk as they carry on in spite of the highly contagious virus. These are the folks who are out ahead of “the flock” doing what is necessary so that the rest of us can continue to live as safely and normally as possible. As you might expect, doctors, nurses, EMS personnel, and medical researchers head up the list of people being prayed for.

But, then, the focus shifts to all those “essential workers” that, in ordinary times, are often taken for granted…next to anonymous…often ignored. The prayer affords a new awareness of and well-deserved dignity to:

Mail carriers, delivery services, package handlers, and drivers, staff who clean and sanitize buildings, retail employees who are working longer shifts and additional days, cooks, bakers, and servers who continue to provide meals, volunteers who serve in food pantries, in homeless shelters, and at blood drives.

(For all of these…we pray to The Lord!)

I thought about this Litany of “Good shepherds” on Monday morning, as I heard a big truck pull up in front of the house. I looked out and watched as a young man, who I do not ever recall seeing before, struggled to load a mountain of yard waste that my neighbor and myself had hauled out to the curb for pickup. We just assumed that “someone” would take it away.

We are all anxious for that day when we are again free to move about as we please. By nature, we tend towards self-reliance…being in control of our own destiny. But we fool ourselves. In truth, we are like a flock of sheep that need protection and guidance in countless ways every moment of our lives. Unfortunately, it takes a pandemic to make us aware and appreciative of all of those nameless, faceless people who shepherd us.

Praying through the COVID-19 Pandemic…reminds me that we should also be learning through the COVID-19 Pandemic.

One of the most important lessons to be learned is that we are totally dependent on countless good shepherds who protect, guide, and feed us every day. And in all of this, they are images of Christ The Good Shepherd…Who leads us…

Beyond our wants, beyond our fears, from death into life.