Today’s readings are about shepherds and their sheep.
In the reading from the Old Testament.
Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.
The Gospel is equally as powerful on the theme of shepherding. Most striking is the ABSENCE of shepherds, despite many religious leaders in the vicinity, but no “shepherds”. So if a “shepherd” isn’t simply a religious leader, who is the person that proves to be a shepherd, and how does that happen?
Shepherds “shepherd” by teaching…by giving direction through wise words that communicate understanding, meaning, power and purpose….in other words, “with their words.”
That’s why the people were lost – they had no one to tell them where to go, and what to do on the way, to make sense out of life with a goal, a purpose. Jesus provided them all of that, so they scurried ahead of Him to hear his teachings.
The “Woe to my shepherds…” is for those who “mislead” (by teaching falsehoods) and scatter (because the fruit of lies and falsehoods is animosity and separation between people).
False shepherds mislead the people because they don’t care, or don’t care enough. They are more interested in serving themselves than the people they were called by God to serve.
In stark contrast, and even though Jesus and the Apostles were exhausted and in need of a break, and tried to get one by getting away from the crowds, when word got out and they travelled ahead of Him “from all the surrounding towns”, so when he got there….well, no break, just more crowds.
I think even the best among us would have thrown hands in the air and said, loudly, “Geeze!! Can a man not get a break around here?” But not Jesus: He cared for them enough to feel compassion enough to forget he needed a break and immediately began to “teach” them, and not just a bit of teaching – like an encore a rock star gives when they return on stage a song or two – it says He taught them MANY things.
So, to sum up: (1) Shepherds are supposed to testify to the truth by teaching that truth to those under their charge who are lost and need guidance; (2) The people of God – His sheep – have been scattered through the lands as a result of being misled by their shepherds who fail to testify to truth; (3) like Jesus in His day, we are called to provide that care and guidance, and call out our shepherds for not providing that care and guidance.
When people are mislead – as noted in the first reading – the result is “fear and trembling” from being lost, insecure and confused. Shepherds bring insight into the truth and security in the knowledge of that truth. The promise is that the scattering is going to be “corrected” by the power of God who will be appoint faithful shepherds after His own heart. That “era of peace” is knocking on our door.
“Jesus, we ask that you bring a powerful, charismatic, fearless Bishop to PEI to lead our Church into true discipleship of You, in obedience to his calling to be a true shepherd in imitation of Jesus.
Father, we ask that you fill your servants who you have called to shepherd your people, with the courage, the caring and the compassion of Your Son Jesus, so as to be able to be true shepherds in these difficult times, so that none of your children will be lost. We ask this in the name of Jesus.” Amen.