When I watched our Sunday Mass online last weekend, and I saw familiar faces at the moment when we would normally pass the Peace, I felt quite moved. I encourage you all to take a moment to take a photo, either your family group or just yourself, with a simple hand-made ‘Peace be with You’ sign, and send it to me, either by email or by text. It will be a great encouragement for us all to see familiar faces even in our isolation. It has been a privilege over the past weeks to work on our own unique, parish community ‘Mass Online’. I pray that it is sustaining you throughout this difficult time, and I thank the people who have helped to make it happen; the production team Nathan Kerwood and Betsy Dickson, and Fiona Fraser and her music team, Geoff Brennan, Caroline Fargher, Cindy and Christian Chen and Rachel Kerr.
This is the Sunday of the Church calendar known as Good Shepherd Sunday. Today we will hear once again the words of the twenty third psalm. I learnt this psalm by heart when I was in Sunday School. ‘The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures. He leads me beside still waters. He restores my soul’.
Yet these poignant and beautiful words so often stand in stark contrast to the reality of our lives. Instead of finding green pastures and still waters we often find ourselves in rough and dangerous rapids or polluted waters. So often we see our world and our lives as bleak and dark, and we are restless and unsatisfied. One interesting effect of the current crisis is that it has made us reassess the important things in life. It has slowed us all down, removed all the normal distractions, and given us an opportunity to think differently and to remember what’s really valuable. Even though I pray that we might come out of this in the coming months with some real change to our ways of doing things and our priorities, I fear that we will probably move straight back to our old ways. Let us pray not.
As we keep on praying and trusting about this situation across the world, or about our own personal situations, we can allow the words of this beautiful psalm to sink into our souls. We can pray that they will become our reality, and allow God’s shepherding love to enter more fully into our hearts. Last week we saw that the risen Christ was walking with the two saddened and despondent disciples on the Emmaus Road without them even being aware that he was there, or open to the possibilities of his presence. When we do become aware that the one who is our loving shepherd walks with us, there is truly nothing we can want. He will give me the rest I need, and he will draw me out of the dark pits of depression to find safe firm ground for my feet.
It’s good to know that millions of people have prayed these words in dark moments and moments of despair through the centuries, and found comfort in them. I am not alone when I pray these words. I am surrounded by countless men and women, both close by and far away, those who are living and those who died long ago, who pray these words with me. There may be many across the world, dying alone of COVID-19, for whom these words are a comfort. God leads us through this life on earth, where goodness and love follow us always, whether we feel it or whether we don’t, and then when this life is done, welcomes us to the heavenly banquet to feed us at God’s table. Today, on this Good Shepherd Sunday we can take this wonderful psalm as a declaration about what it means to be a child of God both in this life and the next.
In peace, Mother Lynda