Emmitsburg Council of Churches

G.P.S = Godly Positioning System

Father John J. Lombardi

That’s what Jesus is: a Godly-global-Positioning-System – supernaturally! He guides us to Heaven and holiness thru His Love and Life-example, thru this world of challenges – and we do need His Guidance!

One time some parents asked me to talk to their son. He was soon to receive the Sacrament of Confirmation and had some questions about the Faith and the Church. Sure, we could talk. We did… and I was inspired and impressed by this young man’s sincerity and pursuit of Truth. Turns out his questions were normal concerns (albeit fed by the media): erroneous interpretations of the Bible and the Faith, and he was also swayed by other-earthly elements, which didn’t confirm his Faith life or convict him to Catholicism. And yet he was eager, seeking to be amenable to the Church’s Way and ways. And that young guy left stronger than when he first came. He wanted to get confirmed and say, "Yes" to His Lord and to the Catholic Church! Later, meeting his parents on the ride home, I was impressed by how concerned and pragmatic they were. They were all for his development in the Lord and our Church. It was a real lesson to me of being "Good Shepherds": parents who wanted to protect their son and promote the Faith!

To Promote and protect. That’s a motto from some policemen. And it’s applicable to Our Lord Jesus as the Good Shepherd as well. He protects and promotes Catholic and Christian lives. In this Sunday’s Gospel (St. Jn. 10:1-10) Jesus claims, as Divine Lord, the title of "the Good Shepherd." He is the way to Heaven, Eternal life, and we need Him and his Godly Positioning System for all this. The Lord Jesus protects us from harm and from the attacks of the Devil and the temptations of the world; and He also promotes harmony, life and love thru the Eucharist, and all the sacraments and His Church. Today we need both of these elements of the Good Shepherd: protection and promotion.

Often times in life we rely on our own guidance systems, and sometimes they work (after all, we went to the moon), and sometimes they don’t (look at communism’s corpses, materialism and the breakdown of the family thru false proposals of family life). We need God. We need His infallible, unchangeable Way to eternal life. We may receive this thru the Bible (do you seek His GPS thru daily scripture readings?); thru the lives of the Saints (don’t’ just emulate them: imitate them­they’re Jesus’ friends and icons); we receive the GPS thru Church teaching (do you read the Catechism of the Catholic Church or Church documents as much as you read the daily newspaper or watch television news?); His GPS is given thru other holy people and also thru His natural Law in Creation around us (thank God for springtime in Maryland – His laws are immutable and trustworthy).

In today’s’ world we have challenges, and today’s news carries pictures and stories of, for instance: Tibet (a people wanting protection and promotion of their land and ways against oppression); a housing and credit crisis (we do need homes to live and protect our families and promote Christian virtues – and we need proportionate security thru worldly goods and money), and yet there is insecurity and danger. Thus, duh­we need God and His GPS! St Teresa of Avila, a great, godly and shepherding woman, said it this way: "All is passing, God alone suffices."

At times when we think of the Good Shepherd, we may think of a saccharine, wimpy- man-Jesus. This is unfortunate: shepherds in Jesus’ time were hearty, rugged and virile men. In today’s Church and world sometimes men may be emasculated, effeminate and stripped of their natural-God-given virtues of manliness. Yet a Good Shepherd like Jesus is both strong and soft, rugged and religious, compassionate and challenging. We need more

men of spirit and culture to promote these virtues and a balanced life, in order that they may become more active in churches and communities and so complement the ladies, who are also unique with their God-given virtues and dispositions. Part of being a man and Good Shepherd includes adventure, heroism and sacrificial love, and also battling spiritual enemies, and seeking proper relationships with ladies and others. This is part of men’s nature, but sometimes, culture and certain unbalanced spiritualities may promote excessive effeminateness and reject or neglect proper manliness. The more guys are spiritual men in the image of Jesus-the-Good-Shepherd the more they will help women be respected and dignified, and thus our culture and Church may grow. Men, by recouping their spiritual manliness, and emphasizing both challenging and compassionate qualities, will not then manipulate or distort women (thru pornography or sensualism) but rather seek their best interests. In this way Jesus’ Godly Positioning System may help guys – and all – to Heaven and holiness.

In an excellent article, "A Jesus For Real Men: What the Masculinity Movement Gets Right and Wrong" (April issue, Christianity Today), Brandon O’Brien strikes the proper balance of guys being both strong and gentle, and encourages men’s groups and individuals to be likewise – especially in our churches today – and to avoid the pitfalls of too much maleness or effeminacy.

Men will also promote family life, proper doctrine (truths that lead us to Christ, the Church and spiritual liberation away from sin) and not be afraid to challenge a world and anti-culture of death. Today, because of some forms of emasculization (which wrongly neglects proper and holy strength and assertiveness), some men lack or denigrate the skills necessary to defend the Faith, or they may be embarrassed of the Lord or "hard truths" (see St Jn. 6:60). Nonetheless, men and other Good Shepherds will also be compassionate. In adhering to the Sacred Heart of Jesus and His nurturing virtues, they will not be afraid to help, assist and persist in proper softness of heart and soul – being gentle as Jesus is – as well as being adventurous, strong and virile.

Ladies too are called to be, in their own unique way, Good Shepherds in protecting and promoting femininity, beauty, strength, family harmony and discipleship in Jesus – all this from His Godly positioning system (you don’t have to buy it: it’s imprinted in our souls). Mother Teresa and Mother Cabrini were both strong, challenging and gentle-loving ladies and shepherds. They had a beautiful balance of Good Shepherd qualities to promote service to the poor, vocations, love of Jesus in the Eucharist; and, as a result, attracted, thereby, millions of souls to the Lord!

We may also think of Ayaan Hirsi Ali (who recently wrote the book "Infidel"), a woman who got fed up with the physical and psychological abuse in her native Somalia and challenged her Islamic upbringing. She escaped to the West and now lives, under guard 24/7, to promote women’s dignity and religious freedom and life. She is both soft and obviously strong, and we thank her for her bold, life-jeopardizing witness.

The Good Shepherd leads us also to vocations. We need young men and women to sacrifice for the Kingdom, for Jesus and His Church and for our world, especially in stepping forward to become a priest or a religious sister or brother. We need you! Specifically, we ask mom’s especially, but also dad’s, to plant the seed of religious life in the hearts of their sons and daughters; to propose the idea and reality – not to impose it – and to help their children, no matter what, to remember and think: "I have a vocation in Jesus to the Church and world –

whether as a priest or nun, a single person or married." Just as we can foster a seed in our children to be a soccer-star, artist, or excellent student at a good college, or likewise for a job in the community – if we can promote this same zeal for worldly vocations, then why not do the same for religious life? Everyone needs to "step up to the plate" and help the Catholic Church bring more priests and religious sisters and brothers to the altar, and not be embarrassed to or prejudiced by religious vocations. Some say: there is no vocation shortage; there is only a shortage of courage and conviction on behalf of parents and families to Answer the Call. Will you? If not you, who? If not now, when?

Read other reflections by Father John J. Lombardi