A shepherd must be passionate, must know how to discern and how to denounce evil.
Those were Pope Francis’ words during Mass on Thursday at the Casa Santa Marta, where he focused on the figure of the Apostle Paul and then turned his attention to the example offered by Don Milani. Like the parish priest of Barbiana, the Pope said, one should take care of one’s neighbour.
“The Good Shepherd gives his life for his sheep,” said Pope Francis during his homily, drawing inspiration from the readings of the day and dwelling on the characteristics that a shepherd should have. The Pope noted in Saint Paul, the figure of the “true shepherd“, who does not abandon his sheep unlike a “mercenary”. The first quality, therefore, the Holy Father indicated, is that St Paul is “passionate”. Passionate, he added, “to the point of telling his people, ‘I feel for you all a kind of divine jealousy’.” He is “divinely jealous,” the Pope commented.
The true shepherd knows how to discern, on guard against at the seduction of evil
A passion therefore becomes almost “madness”, “stupidity” for his people. “And this – the Pope added – is that which we call apostolic zeal: he cannot be a true shepherd without this fire.” A second characteristic, he continued, the pastor must be “a man who knows how to discern”:
“He knows what seduction in life is. The lying father is a seducer. The Shepherd, is not. The shepherd loves. Instead, the snake, the father of lies, is a seducer. He is a seducer trying to turn away from fidelity, because that divine jealousy of Paul was to bring the people to a single groom, to keep the people loyal to their bridegroom. In the history of salvation, in Scripture many times we turn away from God, disloyalty towards the Lord, idolatry as if it were a maternal infidelity. “
You must know how to report evil, not be naïve
The Shepherd’s first characteristic, then, “is to be passionate, zealous, zealous”. The second feature is, “someone who knows how to discern: to discern where the dangers are, where the graces are… where the real road is”. This, the Pope said, “means he always accompanies his sheep: in beautiful moments and even in bad moments, even in moments of seduction, with patience he brings them to the fold.” And the third feature: is “the ability to denounce”:
“An apostle cannot be naive: ‘Ah, it’s all right, let’s go ahead, eh? It’s all right … Let’s party, everyone … everything is possible …’. because there is the fidelity to the only groom, to Jesus Christ, to be defended. And he knows how to condemn it: that concreteness, to say ‘ no,’ like the parents say to the baby when he starts to clap and goes to the electric socket to put his fingers in : ‘No, no! It’s dangerous!’. But, I think so many times of that ‘tuca nen’ (do not touch anything ndr) that my parents and grandparents told me at those moments where there was a danger. “
Take care of others as Don Milani did
“The Good Shepherd – Pope Francis said – can denounce, by name and surname” as St. Paul did.
The Holy Father returned to his visit to Bozzolo and Barbiana, this week, referring, “to those two good shepherds of Italy.” And speaking of Don Milani, he recalled his “motto” when he “taught his boys”:
“I care. But what does it mean? They explained to me that he wanted to say ‘I care’. He taught that things were to be taken seriously, against the fashion motto at that time that was ‘I do not care,’ but said in another language, which I dare not say here. And so he taught the kids to move on. Take care: take care of your life, and this no! ‘”
Paul’s apostolic zeal, was passionate, zealous. Man, commented the Holy Father knows how to discern because he knows the power of seduction and knows the devil seduces.
The Pope then concluded with a prayer “for all the shepherds of the Church, for Saint Paul who intercede before the Lord, for all of us pastors in order to serve the Lord.”