Every time I hear words like those in today’s first reading I feel guilty. Every time God speaks about shepherds neglecting the flock I feel guilty. I ask myself if I do everything possible to seek and find those, who have disappeared from the community of the Church. I’m constantly torn apart: on one hand I should pursue people and try to convince them to practise their faith. On the other hand I know that people have their own will and I have to respect their decisions. I know that some of you understand clearly what I’m talking about. I think that a very similar feeling accompanies many parents, whose adult children have stopped practising their faith. Often I meet mothers and fathers who ask me what they did wrong or what they failed to do that allowed their children to stray so far from the Church and religion. Who knows the answer…
As you know well, Poland is described as a Catholic country. Almost everybody is baptised in the Catholic Church, almost everybody has been prepared for first confession and communion, and almost everybody has received the sacrament of confirmation. Many of them came to Scotland giving new hope to many local Catholic communities. But very quickly it turned out, that in Scotland less than 1% of my fellow countrymen regularly practise their faith. Compared with this Scottish Catholic communities seem quite healthy. I have to ask myself: Am I doing as much as possible to encourage Polish Catholics to practise their faith?
Although the situation might appear to be sad and depressing I don’t lose heart. Today’s gospel sustains my hope. First of all Jesus tells the Apostles that they need rest after their exhausting mission. This means that there is always something more to be done – but it doesn’t depend exclusively on us and our effort. As the reading goes on, we see that Jesus takes pity on the gathered people and cares for them; the Lord never stops being the good shepherd.
So, if you are a parent asking yourself whether you did your best for your children I want to tell you that it doesn’t matter anymore; that belongs to the past. Your job lies in the future.
If you are a parent with little children don’t be afraid; just do your best. Remember that they will ultimately shape their own lives, when they no longer hold your hand.
So, don’t waste your time feeling guilty. Leave feeling guilty to priests. We are the experts in that.