This is the letter I wrote for the bulletin a couple weeks ago. I figured I’d share in case you all were interested. As a reference, the readings for the weekend that I wrote this can be found here.
My Dear Friends,
The psalm this weekend is one that is often chosen for funeral masses. It brings up really comforting images of being taken care of and provided for which we equate with Heaven. It is truly a beautiful psalm that a lot of us are very familiar with and sometimes because of that don’t think about what it really says about the Lord.
As some of you may know, I spent 8 months discerning religious life while living in a convent. For me, this psalm took on a wider meaning when I entered. In the beginning, I struggled a lot with being away from my family and friends. One of the sisters suggested praying with Psalm 23 for them. She said to put my loved ones names’ into the Psalm. For example, I would pray for my sister and say “The LORD is Sara’s shepherd; she shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives Sara repose; beside restful waters he leads her; he refreshes her soul…” I would often do this for my parents or my siblings and even friends sometimes when I was really missing them or wishing I could support them better.
By praying this way, I was constantly reminded that the Lord will take care of me and the people I love. He loves my friends and family even more than I do and knows better what their needs are and how to take care of them. While I was in the convent, it was helpful to be reminded that ultimately my loved ones need Jesus more than they need me and that He doesn’t need me to take care of them. He is completely capable of doing that all on His own.
It’s easy to get overwhelmed with trying to take care of everything ourselves but the Lord wants to remind each of us this week that He can and will take care of us and everyone we love. He is the Good Shepherd who gathers all of His sheep together and provides for them. We see this expressed through all of the readings this week.
In the first reading, Jeremiah is speaking for the Lord against people who were leading the Israelites away from God. Even when circumstances are not the best, the Lord brings the situation to a better end. He promises by the end of the reading that He will bring a better leader who will guide the people and bring them security. In the second reading, St. Paul talks about how Christ brings together all those who are far off and that in Jesus we find peace. We are reminded that Jesus truly is our shepherd. When we choose to follow the Good Shepherd, we can trust that things will turn out for the best in the end, even if we are “walking in the dark valley” right now.
In the Gospel, Jesus shows us how much He cares for His people, that while He was tired and exhausted and trying to go to a deserted place with His disciples, He didn’t get annoyed at the crowds who kept following Him or continue to run away. Jesus chose to keep being present and taking care of His people instead of resting. He shows us what it looks like to be the Good Shepherd and never abandon His sheep.
I want to encourage you to spend some time this week reflecting on how the Lord is the Good Shepherd in your life. If you are struggling or someone you love is, pray through Psalm 23 and place your own name or your friend or family member’s name into the prayer and let the Lord comfort you and remind you of His love and providence for you and all those you love. Whatever your week holds, know that the Lord is with you and for you!
Please pray for me as I pray for you!