St Ignatius of Loyola introduced a method called the Examen where a person is invited to look at their day; where was God’s presence? Where is our unhealed anger? Our anxiety? Our moments of joy? The idea is to focus on the love and the presence of God as a preparation for the following day. This can be a useful strategy to employ particularly when we have experienced moments in our day where we experienced hurt, rejection or offence. Rather than giving into the temptation to dwell on these we are invited to imagine Jesus in that scene desiring to heal us. This can change the way we approach the next day for the better.
The shepherd in the time of Jesus would lead his sheep to a sheepfold at night. The shepherd would sleep across the entrance in order to protect his sheep. In the morning he would call his sheep one by one. As he did so he would check them for any injuries and do whatever he could to heal them. It is this image that Jesus employs to explain the relationship between God and us.
Last Sunday morning after mass we had our first “Hot Button Issue” of the year in the parish on the Role of Women in the Church. During that session we heard both stories of joy and pain. The moments of joy need to be celebrated by us as Church accompanied by a firm resolution for more of the same. Just as importantly the moments of pain remind us of the need for healing accompanied by a firm resolution not to allow this to continue. If we are serious about it this will involve change.
Jesus the Good Shepherd stands at the sheepfold of our lives and calls each one of us by name. The call could be threatening because it involves the risk of having to change. Whether it is in our personal lives or the life of our Church community the challenge is to move from wanting change to taking up the challenge to participating and leading the change. Whether this happens or not depends very much on our willingness to really listen to voice of our Shepherd and to follow him. If we remain focused on God’s presence then we can approach our future for the better.