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258 • Part II. The Sacraments: The Faith Celebrated

forgiveness of sins if the person was unable to receive the Sacrament

of Penance; and preparation for the passage to eternal life.


Good Shepherd Psalm

The sick and the dying of every age have been consoled by the verses of

the Shepherd Psalm (Ps 23). They are further inspired by Christ’s words,

“I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine known me. . . .

I have come so that they may have life and have it more abundantly”

(Jn 10:14, 10). It is not hard for them to see Jesus as the shepherd of

the twenty-third Psalm. The Psalm expresses trust in the divine shepherd

so needed when one is ill. “The Lord is my shepherd; / there is nothing

I lack” (v. 1).

“In green pastures, you let me graze” (v. 2). A shepherd leads his

sheep to the rough herbage, then to the smoother grass, and then to

the sweet grass of the green pastures where they rest. Jesus abides with

the sick throughout their rough moments and guides them to peaceful

acceptance and an experience of a soul at rest.

“To safe waters you lead me” (v. 2). Sheep are nervous about drink-

ing from running streams. The shepherd often constructs pools of still

waters to ease their thirst. Illness breaks the running pace of life, but

there is still the need of calming down. Jesus brings the patients an inner

stillness that permits the believers to drink of the renewing fountains of

his love.

“Even when I walk through a dark valley, / I fear no harm, for you

are at my side; / your rod and staff give me courage” (v. 4). In search of

better pastures, the shepherd sometimes leads the sheep through dan-

gerous valleys. The sheep may fall into a hole. The shepherd uses the

curved part at the top of his staff to gently pull the sheep to safety. Wild

dogs and wolves may come to threaten the flock. The shepherd uses the

pointed end of his staff to kill them or drive them away. Jesus knows

that suffering people are in their own dark valley. Jesus is with them to

remove their fears and awaken their hope. There are times that Jesus

drives away life-threatening ills through his ministers in the Sacrament

of the Anointing of the Sick.