TUESDAYS WITH TERESA: Beyond the Sheepfold

I like to finish one week and commence a new one by attending Mass at the Cathedral on a Sunday evening.

This week, Bishop Michael Kennedy was the celebrant as he began his diocesan pilgrimage of visiting each of the parishes, commencing with the city region of parishes. It is his intention to meet as many people as possible across the diocese as he begins his ministry of shepherding us.

Tradition has us celebrating Good Shepherd Sunday on this Fourth Sunday of Easter. Certainly, apart from the readings, every hymn reminded us of Jesus the Good Shepherd, the one who knows each of his sheep, and these sheep follow him.

While reflecting on the message of this Sunday, I thought about God’s continuous call in my life, not just one call, but my being alert to the changes of that call. God does not just call us once, but is calling us throughout our lives. We are being invited to listen to God’s voice and then to respond. It is not age-dependent, it can happen at any time and in any place. We are always being invited to be attentive to that call.

During these weeks of Easter, we continue to break open John’s Gospel and this week we heard from John 10:1-10. Towards the end of the Gospel Jesus speaks these words:

‘I tell you most solemnly,
I am the gate of the sheepfold.
All others who have come
are thieves and brigands;
but the sheep took no notice of them.
I am the gate.
Anyone who enters through me will be safe:
he will go freely in and out
and be sure of finding pasture.
The thief comes
only to steal and kill and destroy.
I have come
so that they may have life
and have it to the full.’

Our call is not to remain in safe pastures, but to freely go through the gate, to go out, to give life to others so that we and they may have life abundantly.

In June of 2021, I shared a reflection with you about five smooth stones by Rev Anne Hewitt which was in the Ecumenical South Australian Council of Churches Prayers & News. I think part of it to be relevant for this week’s message.

David responded to God’s call by being himself. Humble in his role as shepherd, he delivered the supplies and visited his brothers. He listened, learnt from both sides, considered his ability and experience, and responded. He did not think of being a hero. Merely, using his skills learnt in his daily life, to confront an extraordinary experience. These ‘smooth stones’ of normality sat easily with him. Setting aside the ‘amour’ that was not of his way, he followed his calling, the ‘smooth stones’ of learned wisdom. It enabled him to do something extraordinary. (1 Samuel 17:(1a,4-11, 19-23), 32-49)

    • Call - David knew and took up his staff.
    • Listen – David listened and understood the situation.
    • Learn – He learned from the past, and embedded it in the present.
    • Consider – David considered, in faith, and found courage in the moment.
    • Respond – David took up his staff and five smooth stones of wisdom.

And the ‘Goliath’ was felled by smooth stones.

You may find the following Hand Prayer helpful as you continue to discern God’s call for you. Beginning with the thumb, holding each finger as you pray each Smooth Stone:

You, God of all, call each of us as individuals,
knowing us better than we know ourselves.

Silent prayer of consideration

5 Smooth Stones

Call –            What is my call?

Listen –         What have I heard from the whole situation?

Learn –         What have I understood and embedded in my life?

Consider –   How does my faith help me find courage in the moment?

Respond –   How then shall I live?

Where then, can we use our ‘smooth stones of wisdom’ that are part of our living and being, to bring about our realm of love and family, here in this time, O God?

Silent prayer

All that we are, we offer to you now…
All that we have learnt, please use it now…
All that we can do to further your justice and kindness, engage us now…
Help us to hear your call, and understand where we too, can use our five smooth stones of wisdom, the simple everyday way we live, to bring about change and new beginnings for all in these extraordinary times.

The following story captured my imagination this week, and I wonder how many of you followed the news items about the closure of the Liddell power station. I was struck by how the power station took on a human form over the past few weeks in the media. The power station had served the community for more than 50 years.

Saturday’s Newcastle Herald’s front page headed the story with “Farewell ‘Old Girl’”. The news articles and stories through the week praised the life of this power station which has kept ‘the lights on’ for more than 50 years. Page 6 of the Newcastle Herald was headed “Last gasp for the power plant”. The following words formed part of this report:

In the end, it took longer than anyone had expected to kill the iconic generator’s last operating turbine.

About 40 operators, engineers and executives crammed into the control room on Friday to oversee the final stages of the process at 10am.

With the coal supply shut off, the turbine output slowly dropped.

But, as refusing to die, it sent a few last pulses of electricity before flatlining at 10.15am.

Suddenly the sustained silence that had hung over the control room for the best part of 30 minutes lifted.

The story quotes the words of Mr Lansbury, a 44-year veteran of the plant, who spoke of shedding a tear with the following words:

“It went on longer than expected. I’ve never seen anything like it. She was still going, we were basically trying to turn her life support system off and let her go by herself, but we couldn’t do that in the end. We actually had to push the button, which was a bit sad.”

If people can feel and express this level of emotion for a power plant, no wonder we are made to deeply care for each other. The lifeblood of the plant had been shut off and people gathered as a community to be with it as it ‘drew its last breath’.

And the words of the refrain from the hymn by Marty Haugen, Shepherd Me, O God come to me for the end of this message:

Shepherd me, O God, beyond my wants,
Beyond my fears, from death into life.

And then its second verse:

Gently you raise me and heal my weary soul,
You lead me by pathways
of righteousness and truth,
My spirit shall sing the music of your name.

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Teresa Brierley Image
Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.