Shepherd of Bethlehem with his flockThis reflection is mainly for the RCIA leaders. We guide others on their path of formation and transformation, and the first reading from this year’s feast of Christ the King is a wonderful opportunity to reflect on our practice. All RCIA leaders need to learn about – as well as from – the supreme Shepherd so as to discern how to guide the “flock” entrusted to them. We will look at the actions and attitudes of the shepherd in Ezekiel 34:11-112, 15-17.

God is deciding to take over from the shepherds of Israel. Stepping in because of their negligence and greed, he is taking over his own flock. He is going to be vigilant, keeping a careful watch. No wonder we celebrate the Easter Vigil, the mother of all vigils, as a blueprint of this heartfelt involvement. To have all sheep in view requires lots of alertness and conscious movement, but most of all, one’s compassionate interest. Here we can stop and ask ourselves: how much am I really interested in the people in my RCIA group beyond the meetings? And how well do I keep all of them in view?

Good ShepherdThe beautiful image of a shepherd standing in the middle of his flock so as to see all is next. There is a certain weight and gravity about it. This is perhaps something we constantly need to learn to do, as well as to recognise and point out. In other words, we need to be flexible and constantly move with the moving flock so as to keep this “middle ground” of neutrality, good perspective and clear vision. Yet we also need to learn to recognise and bring to people’s consciousness the Good Shepherd who is always standing attentively in our midst, wherever we are on our journey. Whether we know it or not, Christ is always this reference point from our birth to death – and beyond. So the next question can be: where do I stand, and where is the place of Christ in the RCIA process that I lead?

Vigil

And then comes the rescuing. Of course, God does all of it – but often by using our own lives, gifts and resources. Interestingly, the sheep are scattered only when the conditions spell out poor vision: in the mist and darkness. Baptism is the sacrament of illumination par exellence. Yet even on the way to it, the light of Christ often comes through the fellow pilgrims and dispels the power of darkness. Just like our candles do at Easter Vigil when they are lit – first from the Paschal candle, but also from one another. So how do I encourage, respect and foster everyone’s “glow”?

The provision of rest comes next. Pointing out where to rest is God’s prerogative – it is the Lord who speaks – but we can assist those sacred moments of rejuvenation by taking prayer and liturgy seriously. So seriously that it becomes an occasion of authentic peace, childlike wonder or intimate delight. How can we make prayer become a real stepping stone to a life lived to the full?

Good Shepherd rescuing a sheepAnd then comes the searching, bringing back, bandaging, strengthening, watching over… Notice that each activity matches the need perfectly: the shepherd does not bandage healthy animals! So what are the needs of each individual in my flock? And do I respond to them appropriately? And finally, do I really watch over the “fat and healthy” stock as well? Or do I assume that there is no risk of injury on the way just because they always seem fine?

Let’s learn all those shepherding skills from the Good Shepherd whose loving gaze has been resting on us, and on the people in our care, all our lives.