In this Sunday’s gospel reading, Jesus describes himself as a shepherd that looks after us, his beloved flock of sheep. While few of us encounter actual shepherds in our daily lives, what does this image mean for us? When have we found ourselves in need of love, care, and light? Or even still, when have we been able to guide and look after others in a similar manner?
Those of us who have the privilege of working with youth are familiar with the graces that this life-giving labor entails. Such is the importance of this ministry, that in 2019 the Society of Jesus added Journeying with Youth as one the Universal Apostolic Preferences, a pillar of the mission of Jesuit works across the world. Yet this vocation also comes with great responsibilities beyond the scope of our job descriptions. Whether we might be teachers, coaches, priests, mentors, or counselors, the youth often turn to us to help them make sense of the complex world we live in. And these are troubled times indeed. News of the suffering caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the growing number of Black and other people of color killed by police brutality or the alarming rise of anti-Asian hate crimes across the country weighs heavily in our hearts. Amidst the pain, uncertainty, and confusion that can inevitably arise, we are called to be models of hope, discernment, solidarity, and action for the young people under our care.
None of these issues can be easily solved, which might leave us feeling powerless when confronting their magnitude and complexity. Yet one thing we must continuously do as people who journey with the youth, is to create spaces to engage them in courageous dialogue centered on listening to each other’s stories, developing a deeper understanding, and reimagining a more just and equitable society. Like Jesus is for us, we are called to be a guiding light amid the darkness for those on whose shoulders the healing and liberation of our country and the world rests.
How are you called to guide and look after others in these troubled times, to build a more just and equitable society?
Carlos Jiménez is the Director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion at Bellarmine College Prep in San José. A graduate from Santa Clara University, where he obtained a B.S. in political science and a single subject teaching credential in social studies, Carlos has more than 13 years of experience providing support and advocacy for first-generation, low-income students and their families.