EACH time we think about the stand of God in Jer. 3:15 that says: ‘and I will give you shepherds after my own heart, who will feed you with knowledge and understanding’, we can then appreciate better the deep wound in His mind concerning shepherds. At that time, shepherds of Israel failed woefully in their duties and as a result of that, He decided to rescue the sheep from their hands. Their sins – they were devouring and at the same time fattening themselves rather than taking care of the sheep. One may be tempted to ask, are the shepherds of today better off than the shepherds of Israel?

But how can a shepherd devour the sheep he has come to look after? The pastoral formation of priests today has become necessary more than ever. In our theological colleges/seminaries, it should be taken seriously in guiding the minds of would-be ministers of what is expected of them in this area of their vocation and duties. As a priest, he is needed to bandage, heal wounds of people and more importantly to give them hope in their hopeless situations. The priest, it must be noted, is not just a mere apprentice, who aims only at being familiar with certain pastoral techniques, but must be the one that seeks to be sensitive, conscious, mature and always looking out for better ways of taking care of the flock (church) committed to his charge. The apostle Paul’s counsel to the Ephesian brethren situates this issue better: ‘pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood’ (Acts 20:28).

Care of the flock should be paramount in the heart of the priest, who desires to please God. Necessarily, when a minister is formed pastorally, there are some issues he can handle with ease. For example, visiting the sick, the dying, and the bereaved. He knows what to do through his counseling in order to restore hope to people facing challenges or difficulties of life. Jesus said to Martha, as a way of giving her hope and consolation at the death of her only brother Lazarus: ‘I am the resurrection and the life. Whoever believes in me, though he dies, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die. Do you believe this?’ (John 11:25-26).

 The presence of a well-formed pastor is a welcomed one in every home. Why? What concerns the flock concerns him and he is always looking for a solution in order to put smiles on their faces like their master Jesus, He is a good shepherd (John 10:10). It is never in his plan to plunder or exploit the gullible members of his congregation. It is never in his habit to make his belly his god. What is uppermost in his mind is how to improve the spiritual wellbeing of his members. To those that smile to the bank at the expense of their congregation, they should have a rethink because the Lord of the church is watching!

Therefore, if priests of the modern times are aware that the measure of ministerial success is not in the amount of money in the bank or the quantum of cars decorating their church premises, neither is it in how often they travel overseas, but that ministerial success is determined by degree of faithfulness, then I am sure some would have a rethink on what has been their attitude on the mission field.

The vocation and duties of a priest is to ensure that the welfare of the flock is his concern.

Ven. Ernest Onuoha
Rector, Ibru International Ecumenical Centre,
Delta State

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