Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Lesson From My Young Priesthood: The 99 Will Be Okay

"If a man has a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine in the hills and go in search of the stray?" (Matthew 18:12-13)

My quick answer to Jesus' question - "no, not always."

When I was assigned to my first role as pastor this Summer, I asked my Dad (a president of a Catholic high school) if he had any advice for me.  He only had one thing to say: "Neither a parish nor a school is a nuclear sub - you have lots of people who know how to help."

It was an interesting way of phrasing the age-old axiom "be sure to avoid micromanagement."

No matter how many times people tell you in the seminary or in business school or in dental school or leadership school that "thou shalt avoid micromanagement" it is still scary as "H-E-double-hockey-sticks" when you are thrust into a role of being responsible for something (a company, church, office, school, etc.) 

In my extremely young priesthood, however, one of the things that brings me great joy is that my Dad was right (per usual) - being a pastor is busy and always new, but it isn't impossible, and a lot of people know how to help.

That has been important, especially as I've continued to be aware of the other call I have as a pastor - to go seek the lost (and to empower parishioners to go seek the lost). 

There is a temptation to look at the 99 sheep and think "wow, 99 sheep, that's a lot of work to do, I don't have time for the 1, and it's the 1's fault for leaving anyway, plus if I leave the 99, things might go terribly wrong, and then I might come back with 1 sheep on my shoulders, only to find that the 99 have scattered too."

What I've learned is that if you walk out of the office and go look for the lost sheep from time to time, the 99 are going to be just fine.  People know, often way better than I do, how to balance budgets, fix leaks, answer questions, help with RCIA, etc. etc.

Who are the "99" that you (as priest or lay person) are tempted to obsess about, but whom God is sometimes nudging you away from, telling you "I've got the 99, they'll be fine, go look for the 1 who is lost"?