AST SUNDAY was “Good Shepherd Sunday”, for those of us who attended the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite. And for those who goes to the Traditional Latin Mass, it was celebrated the Sunday before, the 3rd Sunday after Easter. Obviously, Jesus is calling the bishops and the priests to be good shepherds like Himself in the Gospel of John (10:1-18); but I think he is also calling all church musicians to be good shepherds. We, too, are constantly proclaiming, and even in a sense preaching sometimes, the Word of God as we are serving at the liturgy. We should always do our best to assist the principle shepherds, the priests, in a special way by singing the liturgy.
The first step of being a good shepherd is to know the flock: to be interested in them, their needs, their likes and dislikes, their daily life and their ways of communication. It is very important to first establish a relationship with the people we are serving, and not just any relationship, but good and positive relationships. We can only proceed onto serving the flock when we truly know them and understand their needs.
Then, once we know our sheep, we need to offer them the best and dedicating our whole self to serve them. It is very important that we give them what is “the best”, not just “what they want”. This is especially important when we help plan weddings and funerals. We can’t just play or sing what people want, but only what is appropriate for the liturgy. Our goal is to bring people to Christ, the ultimate good shepherd. Sometimes, I would like to think that we are merely the shepherd dogs of our Lord, who carry out His command and help others to follow Him.
Being good shepherds, we must also be prepared to lay down our lives for the sheep, that is to be willing to make sacrifices for them. Most of us don’t get to enjoy the “holiday seasons” like the rest of the world, we probably will be working overtime at the church. Our evenings are going to be occupied by rehearsals and meetings at the parish. And of course, there often are emotional situations around the parish music program. A good shepherd will accept these sacrifices without complain.
A Franciscan friar, also a famous singer who performs around the world, once said to me: “when you sing (especially the high notes), you must take deep breaths, and then allow the Holy Spirit sing through your mouth as the air flow out. Imagine that the Holy Spirit is the air that you are breathing.” Similarly, we must let the Holy Spirit guide us as we make music to glorify God. We are not just performing, singing and playing music in the name of Christ; but we need to allow Christ to touch the hearts of the people through our music.