“I am the good shepherd, says the Lord; I know my own sheep and my own know me.”
This fourth Sunday in the Easter Season is known as Good Shepherd Sunday. The image of Christ as the shepherd depicts the image of someone whose life is one of concern for his flock and who is willing to die to protect and save them. But for us who accept Christ as our shepherd we are challenged to reflect on how we live as his faithful flock serving one another and allowing Christ to lead us to ever fresh and nourishing pasture. Good Shepherd Sunday is set aside as a day of prayer for vocations and a day on which we ask God’s blessing on all our different life vocations.
We need to pray that the Lord will continue to call young people to commit their lives to serving us as priests or religious women or men. But perhaps especially at this time we have been given a very tangible reminder of the importance of so many other vocations in life. Those in the caring professions, parents and educationalists, scientists and many others who serve the wider community. Perhaps we have all been reminded of the sacrifices and demands and acts of heroism that are asked of many in living out these different careers and vocations. It is interesting to hear some nurses and doctors at times in the media saying that they have rediscovered a real sense of the importance of their vocation as a result of this crisis. Where there is real dedication and sacrifice Christ the Good Shepherd himself is there.
My daily routine involves praying alone and saying private Mass within an empty Cathedral first thing each morning. Slowly I have had to become used to the many strange sounds that can be heard within the building when it is completely empty and undisturbed. There are constant creaks and drips and the sounds of life going on at a distance outside but there are some other stranger sounds. At times it sounds as though someone is sitting or kneeling down in one of the benches or the sound of an occasional footstep. By this stage you probably think that the Dean has gone crackers in isolation! The truth is I have become quite used to it and it doesn’t bother me at all. In fact it gives me some form of assurance that the life of prayer which has gone on here since the building opened contains something of the spirit of those who have gone before us even if we can’t have a living congregation here at present.
As the government is being pressured to start informing us of their plans for a gradual exit strategy from the current lockdown we will also have to start to consider what procedures we will have to put in place if and when we are allowed to re-open the Cathedral, even if at first it will be just for private visits. We will endeavour to keep you all informed of any developments but I don’t envisage us being allowed to reopen for some time yet.
Canon Anthony O’Brien