A Shepherd Must Be

A Shepherd Must Be December 6, 2012

The man who writes longhand, Pope Benedict XVI, has a Twitter account.

Eight of them, to be exact. Maybe more? @Pontifex, in every tongue.

What will he say? What will he Tweet? Will he type? What?

Questions create hashtags: irreverent, obscene, loathing, adoring, pious, honest, curious, silly, cute and clever. Asking, ridiculing, wondering, defending.

Why would he come here, to this wild place? Why dwell in virtual reality, this projection, this wastebasket for time and thought?

What brings such a man to such limited space? Doesn’t he have better things to do?

The answer is simple, it seems to me. He needn’t say a word, type a character, silence is fine.

The accounts are not for him to say things and teach us and tell us wisecrack jokes or factoids.

His presence is what matters and justifies and makes it all make some sense.

When sheep go to the cliffs and gather there, the shepherd must follow, treacherous though it be.

Being a shepherd is about being. Dwelling, presence. Not much else.

There are other things to do, perhaps, but first a shepherd must be.

So Benedict comes to show, not to say. He came to hang out, not to party.

At least that’s what I think.

Ask and answer and carry on, nothing will be the same now, not for us, his tweeting flock.

For when the sheep feel their shepherd is near and close, they still wander away and do dumb things and act like sheep.

Twitter isn’t very sentimental. It’s cold and heartless and self-promoting and gets the word out.

Followers follow and leaders lead, but shepherds lead as they follow. It makes no sense at all, really. Not in those terms.

Not unless there is more to do than chasing things around.

And there isn’t these days, we’re all over the place. There are more places to go, even from one place. We’re displaced, like sheep.

So Benedict XVI is here now.

A shepherd must be — with the flock, however stupid they may be.

Pray for me, Holy Father, and thanks for hanging out. I think I know why you’re here.

No pressure, of course, the pressure’s on me. I hope I can appreciate pastoral company.


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