HomeCommentaryOn the service of pastors

On the service of pastors

Pastoral leadership demands an uncompromising selfless concern for people, founded on a persistent mindfulness for who they are, what they need, and who they wish to become

Reflection for the 4th Sunday of Easter (Cycle B)

Today’s readings are meant to present to us a deeper perspective into what constitutes the pastoral diakonia of a servant of the kingdom of God. What is a pastor, and what do these readings tell us about this special ministry?

In relation to the Pauline image of a living and dynamic Church founded on the common ethos of mutual responsibility, wherein each and every person is obliged to serve the other according to his or her gifts, a pastor was then understood to have been given the particular gift of leading and teaching established communities who have begun to live their lives according to our Lord’s teachings and example. In contrast, an apostle was described in previous essays as having been given the task to establish these communities, while a prophet is both a guide and a lingering conscience in the communities especially over those who are tempted to disobey or rebel against God. 

In a Greek text of his letter to the Ephesians, the word used is “poiménas” [ποιμένας] which means “shepherds,” thereby referring to a metaphor of shepherding in Hebrew Scriptures i.e., tending to and feeding a flock to describe the pastors’ work of leading (tending to) and teaching (feeding) a community of believers (flock) entrusted to their care. The word “pastor” comes from the Latin noun for “shepherd” and is derived from the Latin verb pāscerewhich means “to feed.”

The teaching of Jesus in the Gospel reading according to John appears to be specific in what mainly constitutes the service of an exemplary pastor: good shepherds must be prepared to lay down their lives for their sheep. Good shepherds do not abandon their flocks even in the presence of imminent destruction, and must be willing to offer themselves in sacrifice, so that those being cared for may be saved and continue to live. Good shepherds must also be willing to daily “accept undeserved suffering,” to consistently renounce or deny what they deserve or what is important to them, so that they can freely give what others deserve or what is important to those who depend on their protection. 

Pastoral leadership therefore demands an uncompromising selfless concern for people, founded on a persistent mindfulness for who they are, what they need and who they wish to become. Consequently, people even those for whom they are not responsible, know them intimately. Pastoral leadership also demands a strong spirituality, a firm anchoring on the graces of the Spirit in order for these inherent difficulties to be overcome.

A sorely inadequate leadership despite appearances to the contrary, is hence essentially unconcerned for people, limiting themselves only to such concerns which will ultimately serve their own interests. Power is vigorously sought through whatever means e.g., self-promotion, bribery or threats. Poor leadership betrays the lack of understanding that true power is gained through a total lack of interest in doing so, that true power is wielded with a readiness in giving it away, and that true power belongs to no one, but only in the Love that created everyone and everything. 

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So, such is the power of good pastors who give of themselves unconditionally to the point of death, that they are “resurrected” and live on in the people they have saved and in the movements they have inspired.  They refused to bear and chose to succumb to powers that are fleeting, in exchange for deserving to receive a power that is eternal. Indeed, the inconspicuous “stone” of charity, humility and compassion “that was rejected by the builders,” proud of their possessions and prestige, “has become the foundation” for the perpetual social edifice of justice and peace. Only through good pastors will a bright future be possible.

May we take refuge in the Lord, our model for pastoral work and leadership through constant prayer and worship. May we be reminded that as good pastors and ministers, we are loved and recognized by our Father as his children, even as the world scoffs and rejects us. May we always nurture the hope that no matter how bleak or uncertain tomorrow will be for us who struggle to serve faithfully, it is most certainly an endless tomorrow with him.

Brother Jess Matias is a professed brother of the Secular Franciscan Order. He serves as minister of the St. Pio of Pietrelcina Fraternity at St. Francis of Assisi Parish in Mandaluyong City, coordinator of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups of the Capuchins in the Philippines and prison counselor and catechist for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.

The views expressed in this article are the opinions of the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial stance of LiCAS.news.

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