The boldness of God’s love
Philip Harrison SJ and Kensy Joseph SJ have chosen the image of Christ as a Good Shepherd for the invitation cards for their ordination on 30th June. They explain the significance of their choice.
The image of Christ as a Good Shepherd appears in some of the earliest Christian art. In this Russian Orthodox icon from the nineteenth century, Christ is shown with a sheep around his shoulders. It is a gesture drawn straight from the Gospels, where the love of God is compared to that of a shepherd who goes back to carry home the one lost sheep, leaving the rest to fend for themselves (Mt 18:12–14, Lk 15:3–7). Matthew and Luke try to show us the boldness of God’s love for each one of us, whoever we are and whatever we have done.
In John’s Gospel, Jesus Christ is identified as a shepherd who knows his sheep, just as the sheep know him or her (Jn 8:11-18). This strikes a chord with both of us because we believe that a priest and the people he serves are one community, growing in mutual affection and trust. In the same way, Pope Francis writes in Evangelii Gaudium that those who evangelize in Jesus’ name should be profoundly involved in the lives of those they are called to evangelize (24).
We invite you to look more deeply at the image. Notice how disgruntled the sheep looks as it is carried on the shoulders of Jesus, and then allow yourself to be drawn into the look Christ fixes upon you as you look at Him. What does his way of looking suggest to you? The image reminds us of the deep desire of St Ignatius that Jesuits go where the need is greatest and to those in greatest need of knowing God’s love.
At the Ordination on Saturday 30th of June, in St Ignatius Church in Stamford Hill, we will each be invested with a stole to carry across our shoulders, just as Jesus carries a sheep over his shoulders in this icon. That gesture will remind us of the greatness of the challenge which is set before us as priests.
We invite you to pray for us as we prepare for this sacrament by lighting a virtual candle and adding your prayer. God bless you.
Light a candle
Philip Harrison SJ
Kensy Joseph SJ