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Following is prayer and life is something we learn

Pasterz trzyma przed sobą cztery nowonarodzone jagnięta

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Fr. Peter John Cameron, OP - published on 04/30/23

Prayer as a following is an asking for the Good Shepherd to pass on his own vitality and excellence to us.

Of all the apt images Jesus could have chosen to symbolize himself as Savior, he opts for the Good Shepherd. For a good shepherd is all about dedicating himself to the welfare of his sheep, even to the point of radical sacrifice and extreme personal risk. The greatest respect and “esteem” a sheep can show a shepherd is to follow him.

There is something distinctive and attractive about the shepherd — unique. Jesus speaks about the shepherd’s voice (Jn 10:3-5). Following is our response to the attractiveness, the singularity of the Good Shepherd. It is an outward act that expresses our desire to share in the life of the Good Shepherd so as to make our own the truths and values that set him apart. The closer we stay to him, following as his flock, the more we become our true selves. 

Life is something we learn by following Someone who is fully alive. The following of prayer is an asking for the Good Shepherd to pass on his own vitality and excellence to us. Following means committing our whole self to the exceptional Shepherd, offering to him our personality, our intelligence, our freedom. Following changes us. Following is a way of acknowledging that things in our life need to change.

Cardinal Ratzinger wrote:

“Following” is something interior: a new direction for one’s life — surrendered to the will of another, so that being with this other and being at his disposal are now the really important content of a human existence. “To follow” means to entrust oneself to the Word of God, to rate it higher than the laws of money and bread, and to live by it. Only in losing themselves can human beings find themselves. To follow Christ, then, means to enter into the self-surrender that is the real heart of love. To follow Christ means to become one who loves as God has loved. In the last analysis, to follow Christ is simply for people to become human by integration into the humanity of God.

We can begin to follow by joining in this beautiful prayer of a 14th-century abbot, Venerable Raymond Jourdain:

O good Lord Jesus Christ, my sweet Shepherd, what return shall I make to you for all that you have given me? What shall I give you in exchange for your gift of yourself to me? Even if I could give myself to you a thousand times, it would still be nothing, since I am nothing in comparison with you. Although I cannot love you as much as I should, you accept my weak love. Give me your most ardent love by which, with your grace, I shall love you, please you, serve you, and fulfill your commands. May I never be separated from you, either in time or in eternity, but abide, united to you in love, forever and ever. Amen


Follow Fr. Cameron’s series on prayer here.

See some of the earlier pieces below:

Pope Benedict XVIPrayerPrayer Is:
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