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Monday, March 4, 2013

On “Being Pastoral”

My blogging friend Michael Sean Winters has written a beautiful post giving rich meaning to the expression “being pastoral”. He writes in the context of the Catholic Church’s search for a new pope, but what he writes I think applies to pastoral ministry in any Christian context. Great thoughts:

What pastoral experience teaches is humility. It teaches both the pastor and the flock that along the pilgrim’s path there are many bumps in the road, there is the constant awareness that life’s travails can sometimes make it difficult to discern or even contemplate a better, more heavenly road, there is the fact of human frailty, often found in the most steadfast of hearts. In short, a pastor encounters sinners and, hopefully learned that any one who pastors in the name of Jesus Christ must be, first and foremost, an ambassador of God’s mercy…
A good pastor must be rooted in the faith of the Church and capable of proclaiming that faith. But, a good pastor also gets to know his flock and speaks to them in ways they can understand. A good pastor comforts those who need comforting, no matter the source of their broken-heartedness and he also challenges those who have become too comfortable or conformist. A good pastor helps his flock form their consciences to be more and more consonant with the teachings of the Church but also helps to assuage those consciences when they fall short, as fall short we all do…
It is what the Church needs, a man who loves the people of God as Jesus did, not in spite of their sins but because of them. Jesus came to heal the sick of soul and ours is a soul-sick world. Only a pastor can find the words and the example to convey that ineffable mercy one encounters in the confession. Our world needs to be reminded that our God is the Father of Mercies. Only then can they be invited to consider the many and manifold ways in which they have need of mercy. Jesus understood this which is why we call Him the Good Shepherd.

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