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Pope Francis preaches at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta Pope Francis preaches at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta  (Vatican Media)

Pope at Mass: 'Shepherds should show tenderness and closeness of Jesus'

During his homily at Mass in the Casa Santa Marta on Tuesday morning, Pope Francis says those entrusted with shepherding God’s people should always show Jesus’ tenderness and closeness, as set out in the readings of the day (Mark 5:21-43).

By Devin Watkins

Pope Francis took his cue from the day’s Gospel according to Mark, which indicates “a day in the life of Jesus”.

The two healing stories recounted by Mark need “to be contemplated more than reflected upon”, he said, since they are a model for shepherd, bishops, and priests.

Be with the people and care for them


The Evangelist describes Jesus as being surrounded by a large crowd on the seashore. Pope Francis said Jesus is shown caring for the people, exactly in the manner God had promised, that is, “being in their midst”.

“Jesus did not open an office for spiritual counseling with a sign reading: ‘The prophet receives on Monday and Friday from 3:00 until 6:00 PM. Entry costs this much, or if you prefer, you can make an offering.’ No, Jesus does not do that. He doesn’t even open a medical office with a sign reading: ‘The sick may come on such-and-such day, and they will be healed’. Jesus throws himself in the midst of the people.”

Pope Francis said this is “the example of a shepherd that Jesus gives us”.

He also told a story about a holy priest who accompanied his people. The Pope said this man was tired in the evenings but that it was a “real tiredness” of “one who truly works” with people.

Confront difficulties with tenderness


The Holy Father said the Gospel also describes Jesus as being “pressed upon” by the crowd. He said this Greek verb (συνέθλιβον) occurs five times in Mark’s Gospel, underlining how people do the same today during pastoral visits so as to “grab grace”.

Jesus, he said, never retreats from this closeness but even pays for his good actions with “shame and mockery”. These are the “outlines of Jesus’ way of acting”, said Pope Francis, and therefore show “the attitude of a true shepherd”.

“The shepherd is anointed with oil on the day of his ordination: both priests and bishops. But the true oil – the interior oil – is the oil of closeness and tenderness. The shepherd who doesn’t know how to get close [to people] is lacking something. He may be a master in the field, but he is no shepherd. A shepherd who lacks tenderness will be rigid, beating the sheep. Closeness and tenderness are seen here. That’s how Jesus was.”

Closeness and tenderness of the shepherd to be asked of the Lord


Pope Francis went on to say that the shepherd, like Jesus, “ends his day tired”, tired from doing good. If this is his attitude, he said, the people will feel the presence of the living God.

This became the Holy Father’s prayer for the day.

“Today we could pray during this Mass for our shepherds, that the Lord give them the grace to walk with the people and to be present for them with much tenderness and closeness. When the people finds its shepherd, they feel that special sensation only felt in the presence of God, as today’s Gospel ends: “they were utterly astounded.” This amazement [comes from] feeling the closeness and the tenderness of God in the shepherd.”

Report by Devin Watkins
30 January 2018, 11:31
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