First Friday Mass (November 4, 2011)
Charles Borromeo, bishop
Rom 12:3-13; Jn 10:11-16
Deacon Jim McFadden; St. Francis High School
Today we celebrate the Feast Day of Charles Borromeo, who did so much of the Lord’s work in his forty-six years (died November 3, 1584). At the age youthful age of twenty-two he was named cardinal and secretary of state for his uncle, Pope Pius IV: one could move up very quickly in Church administration during the Renaissance if one was well connected. Regardless of how he got there, once he got in a position of power, he implemented the reforms of the Council of Trent, founded seminaries, and became a model for pastoral care. He truly embodied the Good Shepherd image in today’s gospel.
Since most of us have had little contact with sheep, aside from the occasional petting zoo, we might miss the depths of intimacy captured in the declaration, “I am the Good Shepherd.” In the Near East in the ancient world, the gated sheepfolds often held more than one flock. When the shepherd came to collect his sheep, he would enter through the gate and call his sheep in a particular way. The sheep would recognize the sound of his voice and go to him. Jesus uses this image of the bond between a shepherd and his sheep to characterize how the Messiah is totally, personally connected to his people.
Charles Borromeo took Jesus’ model of the good shepherd to heart. Since we are the Body of Christ, we also share the same Mission of our Lord and are called to serve the People of God, many of whom are Troubies! It is this personal aspect of Jesus’ ministry—calling “his own sheep by name”—that I believe is a model for our life at St. Francis. We have so many opportunities to interact and serve our students: teaching in the classroom, consulting and tutoring outside of class, talking with them in Serra Court, attending their games and Fine Arts performances, going on retreat with them, and praying with them at Liturgy.
Charles Borromeo offers several concrete suggestions to become more attuned Good Shepherds. He challenges us to be prepared for Mass and to remain focused as we “fully, actively, and consciously participate” in the “fount and summit” of our liturgical life. Through the Bread and Wine we are offering ourselves at the altar. At the words of consecration, the Holy Spirit transforms these gifts, transforms us, into the Body and Blood of Christ. We offer ourselves and we receive the divinity and soul of Christ. We then become Eucharist to the world, especially to our students.
Borromeo challenges us to stay focused and to avoid distractions. He puts it this way: “If a tiny spark of God’s love already burns within you, do not expose it to the wind, for it may get blown out. In other words, avoid distractions as well as you can. Stay quiet with God. Do not spend your time in useless chatter.”
We bring our interior life of prayer to our ordinary experience, which will influence our speech. So often, it is the way we say something that can mirror the breadth and depth of Jesus’ love. Jesus relates to us as an intimate friend and connects to us as if we were the only person on earth. He enters our inner world. How can we bring our experience of the Risen Lord to others in our St. Francis faith community?
Our Buddhist brethren offer a valuable, practical guideline in their practice of Right Speech, which has three components: is it true? does it need to be said? does it come from love? If we can say “yes,” to all three then we should say it loud and clear.
Finally, Borromeo says that we can only give what we have. If we are going to feed spiritually those we’ve been blessed to serve, we, must be fed ourselves. Put simply, he states, “Nothing is more necessary than meditation. We must meditate before, during, and after everything we do.” This awareness is cultivated by going into the Quiet, sharing time with God, entering his Mind and Heart which gradually transforms us into Him. When we become people of prayer, “all that you do becomes a work of love.”
Sisters and brothers, may we at St. Francis, once grounded in Jesus, venture out together to minister to our students and each other, to plant the seeds of the Gospel in our school community, and in the process renew the sheepfold.
(The Borromeo quotes are taken from a sermon that he gave
during the last synod he attended.)