The Shepherd

Bishop Barry Knestout portraitThe Lord is my shepherd. (Psalm 23)

Feels good to have a bishop. We find ourselves at a good moment to reflect a little bit on the great mystery of Holy Church. Apparently, Bishop Knestout wanted to follow me from the Archdiocese of Washington to the diocese of Richmond.

But seriously. Our church is a small place where we can try to know and love each other, an intimate little band of pilgrim souls. And our Church grandly extends all over the earth and back through 2,000 years of history.

The Church belongs to no one but Her Lord, Jesus Christ. He shepherds His Church on earth unfailingly. He does this through mystical, interior works—through the Gifts of the Holy Spirit and all the holy inspirations we receive within. And He shepherds His Church by reaching us through the unchanging constants of our life together—the Sacred Liturgy, the Holy Scriptures, the sacraments, etc. And He shepherds us through the on-going pastoral government of the institution.

St. Nicholas died 1674 years ago today. He participated in the on-going pastoral government of the Holy Church. St. Nick served as a bishop and participated in the ecumenical council at Nicaea. Where would we be without those bishops, who gave us our Creed? Seventeen centuries have passed since then, and it took place on the other side of the world. Yet the Creed of Nicaea means everything to us, right here and now, in southwest Virginia.

st nick

So we don’t want to go it alone. We can’t manage it, if we’re isolated and on our own. We never want to find ourselves separated from the living Body, the unique organization that has all these attributes of Christ’s loving pastoral touch. The Church.

Christ the Good Shepherd of our souls: He is perfect. He does everything perfectly. We human shepherds—He chose us and put us in our places. But we do not do everything perfectly; we could hardly claim that we do. Pope Francis does not claim to be the perfect pope. Bishop Knestout makes no claims at being a perfect bishop or priest. (I’ve known him a long time—20 years. He has no delusions of perfection.) And God knows that the pastor in Rocky Mount/Martinsville is, well…hardly perfect.

But we imperfect men have been chosen to take our places in the great family–and to try and shepherd the flock as Christ would have us do. Pope Francis isn’t the perfect pope, but he is the pope—and thank God we have one. And now Bishop Knestout is our bishop, and thank God we have one.

Because we sheep want nothing more than to hear the voice of our Good Shepherd Jesus and to feel the loving touch of His crook. We can be sure that Christ does indeed shepherd us, when we stay united to the one, holy, catholic, and apostolic Church, founded on St. Peter and governed by His successors and by all the bishops in communion with him, spread across the globe.

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