Keen sense of smell

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Pastors are requested

“What a cool hat and what a pretty cane!” That is how a young child greeted me as I walked out of the sacristy with the episcopal insignia on my head, just as about to begin the first of multiple Confirmation Masses in the archdiocese.

Laughingly, I responded that the hat is called a miter and the cane a crosier, and I would have wanted to explain their significance, but due to the shortage of time, I limited myself to say that I would pray that one day he too would carry the hat and cane that he liked so much.

How great and varied is the flock that we must guide as bishops! We have newborn lambs that need every attention and care in order to grow healthy; others full of youthful vigor who are determined to venture into any terrain no matter how rocky it is; some that are frail and sick who require delicate patience; and we can count on the experienced one who can quickly identify the paths to follow the shepherd closely. A good shepherd can distinguish the smell of each group.

For over five years, ever since Bishop Joseph Tyson was named the ordinary of the Diocese of Yakima, Archbishop Sartain has been petitioning the Holy Father for a second auxiliary bishop to guide this growing flock. It was with great joy and gratitude that we received the news that Monsignor Daniel Mueggenborg would be consecrated on May 31. During the whole of his priestly life, Bishop Mueggenborg has proven himself to have a keen sense of smell characteristic of a good pastor. Without a doubt, he will be able to identify the smells and attend the needs of this vast flock.

The tall and sharp-pointed design of the miter is formed by two parts that signify the Old and New Testament united as the legacy of Christ to the church, with the two hanging strips that symbolize the written word and the Spirit that interprets it. The crosier is certainly reminiscent of the staff the pastor leans on as he walks through the mountains, with the curve at the top used to bring back into the fold any sheep that have strayed from the path.

From 2,000 years ago to the present day, dangers have always existed for those who follow Jesus Christ. Jesus himself, using the common images of his time, compared his followers to a flock, naming himself the good and dedicated shepherd ready to protect his sheep from the wolves even at the cost of his own blood.

 “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them. This is because he works for pay and has no concern for the sheep. I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me.” (John 10:11-14)

The bishop is the lookout — he sounds the alarm at the sight of any robber and skillfully guides the way to green pastures that give life in abundance. The bishop uses a scarlet-colored cassock, symbolizing the blood of Christ and the call to be a witness just like Jesus the Good Shepherd, who protects his flock even to the point of shedding his own blood, just as it has happened so many times during the centuries of Christianity.

Today we have so many high-sounding voices in our world that try to distract the sheep from Jesus. There exist so many “hired hands” who try to lead the sheep to fields that are attractive in appearance but that poison the flock. Fields full of avarice, vanity, egotism, lust and all kinds of immediate and passing pleasures.

We the bishops have the privilege and the responsibility to echo the word of the Good Shepherd and to be faithful images of the loving care that the Jesus the pastor has for his flock, so that they may have life in abundance.

“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I lack.” (Psalm 23:1)

Like Mary, let us be attentive to the voice of the Good Shepherd.

Read the Spanish version of this column.

Northwest Catholic - July/August 2017

Bishop Eusebio Elizondo

Eusebio Elizondo, M.Sp.S., is auxiliary bishop of Seattle and vicar for Hispanic ministry.