Happy Lunar New Year of the Sheep, Asian families

Good Shepherd rice mural - NJ Viehland PhotosXuan Loc, VIETNAM – This mural of the Good Shepherd made of rice grains hung in the dining room of the Pastoral Complex of the Diocese of Xuan Loc, in Dong Nai, Vietnam, when the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) officials gathered there with delegates and resource persons from around east, south, southeast and central Asia on Dec. 2012 for the Xth FABC Plenary Assembly. 

This year’s celebration of Lunar New Year on Feb. 19 pulls the mural photo out of Catholic in Asia’s media library because the Chinese Zodiac sets the date as the start of the Year of the Sheep until Feb. 7, 2016, and sheep is one of the prominent symbols used in the Christian faith.

Some of the earliest depictions of Christ show him as the Good Shepherd. 

At the same time, lamb also represents Christ as sacrifice (Paschal Lamb) and also a symbol for Christians.

As Christ is Shepherd, Peter, as head of the Church, was told to “feed His sheep.”

For example: 

Jesus gave Peter a three-fold command to “feed my sheep” in John 21:15-17. Each time Jesus said, “Feed my sheep,” it was in response to Peter’s three-fold declaration of love for Jesus. 

The three commands, although often translated the same way, are subtly different. The first time Jesus says it, the Greek means literally “pasture (tend) the lambs” (v. 15). The Greek word for “pasture” is in the present tense, denoting a continual action of tending, feeding and caring for animals. Believers are referred to as sheep throughout Scripture. “For he is our God and we are the people of his pasture, the flock under his care” (Psalm 95:7). Jesus is both our Good Shepherd (John 10:11) and the Door of the sheepfold (John 10:9). By describing His people as lambs, He is emphasizing their nature as immature and vulnerable and in need of tending and care.

The second time, the literal meaning is “tend My sheep” (v. 16). In this exchange, Jesus was emphasizing tending the sheep in a supervisory capacity, not only feeding but ruling over them. This expresses the full scope of pastoral oversight, both in Peter’s future and in all those who would follow him in pastoral ministry. Peter follows Jesus’ example and repeats this same Greek word poimaino in his first pastoral letter to the elders of the churches of Asia Minor: “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers” (1 Peter 5:2).

The third time, the literal translation is “pasture (tend) the sheep” (v. 17). Here Jesus combines the different Greek words to make clear the job of the shepherd of the flock of God. They are to tend, care for, and provide spiritual food for God’s people, from the youngest lambs to the full-grown sheep, in continual action to nourish and care for their souls, bringing them into the fullness of spiritual maturity. The totality of the task set before Peter, and all shepherds, is made clear by Jesus’ three-fold command and the words He chooses.

from http://rosemarieberger.com/2014/11/07/pope-francis-the-holy-people-of-god-living-on-the-peripheries-of-history/

from rosemarieberger.com click photo for full blog post

Pope Francis has also used the symbol of shepherd on various occasions. At his first Chrism Mass in 2013, he used the imagery to stress the need for priests to go out of themselves, reach out to their people in the name of Jesus, and also to allow their people to be media through which Jesus can touch and teach priests.

Pope Francis said:

A priest who seldom goes out of himself, who anoints little – I won’t say “not at all” because, thank God, our people take our oil from us anyway – misses out on the best of our people, on what can stir the depths of his priestly heart. Those who do not go out of themselves, instead of being mediators, gradually become intermediaries, managers. We know the difference: the intermediary, the manager, “has already received his reward”, and since he doesn’t put his own skin and his own heart on the line, he never hears a warm, heartfelt word of thanks. This is precisely the reason why some priests grow dissatisfied, become sad priests, lose heart and become in some sense collectors of antiques or novelties – instead of being shepherds living with “the smell of the sheep”, shepherds in the midst of their flock, fishers of men.

And so it is along these lines of Scripture and Pope Francis’ message to priests that we wish families in and from Asia celebrating Lunar New Year of the Sheep : may prosperity, peace and justice reign in everyone’s lives and in the world through our sacrifices, mercy, compassion and full pastoral care from our Church.

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Advent in Vietnam during the 10th FABC Plenary Assembly 2012

N. J. Viehland Photos

 

A symbol of the Star of Bethlehem hanging around Xuan Loc Pastoral Complex remind delegates and guests attending activities of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences about the meaning of Advent, the season during which the assembly commemorating the 40th anniversary of effectivity of FABC's Statutes and studying together challenges to the Church in Asia. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

A symbol of the Star of Bethlehem hanging around Xuan Loc Pastoral Complex remind delegates and guests attending activities of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences about the meaning of Advent, the season during which the assembly commemorating the 40th anniversary of effectivity of FABC’s Statutes and studying together challenges to the Church in Asia. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai led the opening Eucharist for the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) . The statutes of the voluntary association of episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia was approved by the Holy See on Nov. 16, 1972. The federation has been created to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good. Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales served as Pope Benedict XVI's official representative to the assembly whose activities were held in Xuan Loc and Ho Chi Minh City from Dec. 10-16. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Indian Cardinal Oswald Gracias of Mumbai led the opening Eucharist for the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) . The statutes of the voluntary association of episcopal conferences in South, Southeast, East and Central Asia was approved by the Holy See on Nov. 16, 1972. The federation has been created to foster among its members solidarity and co-responsibility for the welfare of Church and society in Asia, and to promote and defend whatever is for the greater good. Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales served as Pope Benedict XVI’s official representative to the assembly whose activities were held in Xuan Loc and Ho Chi Minh City from Dec. 10-16. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales (in front), Archbishop Emeritus of Manila was welcomed by a drum and bugle corps and a reception line stretching through the main roads of Xuan Loc Pastoral Complex in the diocese east of Ho Chi Minh City on Dec. 11, 2012, after he delivered his address citing Pope Benedict XVI's message to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC). He is accompanied by Assistant of the Papal Legate Father Marcelino Antonio M. Maralit, Jr. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

Filipino Cardinal Gaudencio Rosales (in front), Archbishop Emeritus of Manila was welcomed by a drum and bugle corps and a reception line stretching through the main roads of Xuan Loc Pastoral Complex in the diocese east of Ho Chi Minh City on Dec. 11, 2012, after he delivered his address citing Pope Benedict XVI’s message to the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC). He is accompanied by Assistant of the Papal Legate Father Marcelino Antonio M. Maralit, Jr. (N.J. Viehland Photo)

The Grand Chapel is one of five chapels on the block of buildings in Xuan Loc Pastoral complex where Saint Joseph Seminary stands. The seminary's introductory booklet says this chapel is built in the shape of three rice buds indicating the impending rich harvest of the Church. In front of the chapel Vietnamese Catholics, mostly from Xuan Loc diocese, lined the pastoral complex road to welcome bishops and other delegates from around Asia, the Vatican and other continents, at the opening of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conference on Dec. 11, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

The Grand Chapel is one of five chapels on the block of buildings in Xuan Loc Pastoral complex where Saint Joseph Seminary stands. The seminary’s introductory booklet says this chapel is built in the shape of three rice buds indicating the impending rich harvest of the Church. In front of the chapel Vietnamese Catholics, mostly from Xuan Loc diocese, lined the pastoral complex road to welcome bishops and other delegates from around Asia, the Vatican and other continents, at the opening of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conference on Dec. 11, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Xuan Loc was created in 1965 from places under the pastoral care of Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese. In 2010, more than 35 percent of the 2.34 million people living in the diocese had been baptized Catholics. Today, more than 1,700 women religious are helping in Church ministries diocesan officials say. Many of them contributed to discussions, services and operations in support of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Xuan Loc was created in 1965 from places under the pastoral care of Ho Chi Minh City archdiocese. In 2010, more than 35 percent of the 2.34 million people living in the diocese had been baptized Catholics. Today, more than 1,700 women religious are helping in Church ministries diocesan officials say. Many of them contributed to discussions, services and operations in support of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Philippines Archbishop Jose Palma was among 13 presidents of Catholic Bishops Conferences in Asia who joined the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops' Conferences in Xuan Loc and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Philippines Archbishop Jose Palma was among 13 presidents of Catholic Bishops Conferences in Asia who joined the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences in Xuan Loc and Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam Dec. 10-16, 2012. (N. J. Viehland Photo)

Participants, including Ursuline Sister Mary Walter Santer processed from the Xuan Loc diocesan offices building to the auditorium for the opening of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of the Asian Bishops' Conferences (FABC) on Dec. 11, 2012. Sister Santer was honored at the assembly for her long-time service as Executive Secretary of the FABC Office of Consecrated Life, a post now held by Religious of the Assumption Sister Deanna Maria Villavert Combong. (N. J. Viehland photo)

Participants, including Ursuline Sister Mary Walter Santer processed from the Xuan Loc diocesan offices building to the auditorium for the opening of the 10th Plenary Assembly of the Federation of the Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC) on Dec. 11, 2012. Sister Santer was honored at the assembly for her long-time service as Executive Secretary of the FABC Office of Consecrated Life, a post now held by Religious of the Assumption Sister Deanna Maria Villavert Combong. (N. J. Viehland photo)

On Friday, December 14, the plenary hall during the evening prayer filled with voices of hope singing:

“Waiting in silence, waiting in hope; We are your people, we long for you, Lord. God ever with us, Emmanuel, Come, Lord Jesus, Maranatha! –  “Waiting in Silence” by Carey Landry

Reports from the FABC plenary assembly are posted on the FABC’s website with photos on the website Gallery