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Monday, 09 April 2018 19:39

Maybe we're all called to smell like the sheep

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0418SrAntonia 150Priests and bishops have been instructed that they need to smell like the sheep, writes Sister Antonia of Jamberoo Abbey. But what if this advice is not just for priests and bishops but for all of us? What would that mean?

I love the smell of sheep; I love the bleating sound of sheep; I love the snow white look of the fleece once it is parted; and I especially love Australian sheep.

As well as being a grazier, my father also had a Stock and Station Agency in partnership with two of his brothers... which meant he held fortnightly sheep sales. By this time we had moved from the farm into town to live and my mother would bake scones each sale day and take them to the saleyards at morning tea time for "the men", "The men" were my father and the sheep buyers who had come down from Sydney to buy livestock (as well as anyone else who happened along... she made lots!). To this 0418LostSheep 350day the sound of a dog barking immediately conjures up for me the sight, smells and sounds, the dust and flies and the sheer energy and excitement of the fortnightly sheep sales. I love it!

So, Pope Francis saying that the priests and bishops need to smell like the sheep causes me to smile inwardly. Smelling like the sheep isn't such a bad thing at all from my point of view and obviously Pope Francis thinks so too. It speaks of earthiness, of goodness, of simplicity and of a connectedness with the realities of life. This has made me think some more about whether it is not just the bishops and priests who need to have the smell of the sheep. Maybe we all do.

What would that mean for those of us who are not priests and bishops I wondered? We are the sheep, but are we really among the sheep. DO each one of us have the smell of the other sheep on us? I found myself very challenged by this thought when I related it concretely to the people with whom I live and with whom I work and pray, as the Pope asks us to do.

I think this is really about being prepared to be one of the crowd, being prepared to get in there and roll up our sleeves and serve; to enter in to the pain each one of us probably often carries by herself or himself; to try to see things and feel things from the other persons' point of view; to be ready to take risks in relating by reaching out, even if it may mean rejection. Maybe what is wrong with our Church today is precisely this: that there are so many of us who no longer smell like "the mob" (of sheep) because we are disconnected from the pain and difficulties of weak, diseased and sick sheep. Maybe the crisis in our Church at the moment is a "wake up" call for all of us to BE CHRIST to every other one of the mob, to care for others and their needs before our own, as St Benedict urges us to do and as Pope Francis is urging us to do.

Read more of Sr Antonia's reflection, 'Smelly Sheep' on the Jamberoo Abbey website.

Photo: Shutterstock.