Locust Street Letters
By Frank Lawrence Vernon
Philadelphia: St. Mark's Church, Locust Street.
ST. MARK'S, PHILADELPHIA.
THE SECOND SUNDAY AFTER EASTER, 1930.
MY DEAR PEOPLE:
Last Sunday I reminded you that, during these Forty Days of Joy, you will do well to meditate upon the appearances of Our Lord after His Resurrection. By doing this you will saturate your minds with thoughts of the disciples' joy in having their Lord with them, actually with them. This was what they were thinking about and talking about. The wonder of the Forty Days was the wonder of His Presence.
While they saw and wondered and rejoiced, they were bidden to wait for another wonder. A wonder which would make all the people in all the world glad. They were to wait for the Holy Ghost to lead them into the knowledge of the new wonder. Later on they were to learn that Our Lord would quite literally fulfill his promise to be with His disciples in His Church unto the end of the world. All this was to come a little later. And we shall be hearing about it at Pentecost. Today my point is that it is very much more important for us to learn to find the joy in Our Lord's Presence here and now in this life, in this world, than it is to meditate upon the joy of the life in the world to come. The best preparation for that is to learn to simply live with Our Lord here. Then we shall go on doing it quite simply hereafter.
Before we can learn to live simply with Our Lord here, there are three things that we must first thoroughly understand.
The first is that Our Lord lives in His Church.
The second is that Our Lord works through His Church.
The third is that He lives and works as the Good Shepherd of Souls.
He has explained all this. It ought to be clear enough for any one to understand. I think it is clear enough to any one who believes the three facts.
Our Lord is the Shepherd. The church is the sheep-fold. We are the sheep.
The shepherd calls his sheep into the sheep-fold to heal them, to feed them, and to protect them.
Our Lord calls us into His Church to heal us, to feed us, and to protect us. He Himself is there to do it.
He does it through His Sacraments of Baptism, Penance, Communion and Unction.
He administers these Sacraments to us by the hands of under-shepherds, called priests. They are only agents whose business it is to administer supernatural gifts infinitely beyond their own human power. They are only undershepherds. Our Lord is the Chief Shepherd.
The religious experience of Christians in the Christian Church is the experience of being shepherded by the Chief Shepherd. They must see Jesus. And they must see no man save Jesus only.
The under-shepherds may not exalt themselves lest they bar the way of the sheep to the Chief Shepherd. They may not neglect their one business of transmitting the gifts of the Chief Shepherd to the sheep. The Lord has anointed them to preach good tidings unto the meek. He has sent them to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound. Parish priests are primarily pastors. In all their work they reveal their Chief Pastor.
In their parish churches they guard the fold and exalt the Good Shepherd. At the Font they take care of the lambs.
In the Confessional they liberate the captives.
At the Altar they feed the sheep.
In their unceasing pastoral visits they exercise the ministry of the Good Shepherd who follows His sheep wherever they may be.
In the last Sacraments of Penance, Communion and Unction, they lead their sheep to the threshold of the Eternal Fold, from which they will never pass out.
From first to last and all the way, the Good Shepherd is the Central Figure, who is never lost sight of.
Affectionately in Our Lord,