Saturday, July 18, 2009

The Example of the Shepherd

(16th Sunday, B)

When Jesus “saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” And isn’t it still true? Our troubled world rolls along day after day, year after year, confused and suffering, and not quite knowing how to really move forward. Turn on one of the TV news channels. Politicians and ‘experts’ argue all day about the fine plans that will get us out of war, protect us from terrorism, fix the economy, and put and end to poverty, racism, hopelessness, and every other social evil. But it doesn’t seem to happen. What’s wrong with us? Why do we have so much trouble trying to make a better world?

The world has not yet succeeded in hearing the voice of the true Shepherd. So often the shepherds of this world fail us. The constant news of political scandals—and Church scandals too!—makes the lament of the prophet Jeremiah just as current for us: “Woe to the shepherds, who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD.”

Yes, both in the Church and in the political world, we can understand Jeremiah’s harsh words against those who were supposed to be good shepherds of the people. But we are also heirs to Jeremiah’s promise: the true King and Son of David, the “LORD our Justice” has indeed appeared, and he is the Lord Jesus Christ. He is the Good Shepherd who shows us the true and successful way to be human beings.

This is part of God’s purpose in the Incarnation of the Son; God gives us our Lord and our Lady to show us how to be human beings. Jesus and Mary reveal humanity as God sees it and was God would have it. The divine humanity of Jesus Christ is for our imitation, as is the perfect discipleship of Christ we see in his Blessed Mother.

Jesus is the Good Shepherd not just in what he teaches, but also by example. Again, in Jesus we see God’s idea of what a human being is—someone who announces the Kingdom of God, meets others with gentleness and peace, heals the sick and suffering, and ultimately offers his life for others. That’s the Jesus we meet here at Sunday Mass.

It’s no accident that the very next passage in St. Mark’s gospel after the one we hear today is the feeding of the five thousand. In this great prefiguring of the holy Eucharist, Jesus acts out his concern for the vast crowd by nourishing them with the bread that only he can give. And so it is with us here at holy Mass. Jesus offers his own divine humanity as our nourishment, so that God’s own idea of perfect and flourishing humanity might find a home in our lives through our Holy Communion.

It is in this sense that as Catholic Christians, we can say that the Eucharist is our social and political agenda. It is the Mass that the divine humanity of the Good Shepherd, the one who can lead us to a safer world of justice and peace, becomes present for us. Let us listen to his voice, rejoice in his Presence come to live within us through Holy Communion, and may we help the world to follow the true Shepherd, the only one who can lead us out of all the self-inflicted misery of this world.


RAnn said...

Hi, My name is RAnn and I'm the hostess for Sunday Snippets--A Catholic Carnival. We are a group of Catholic bloggers who share our best posts with each other weekly. I'd like to invite you to join us. You can see this week's post and links at

Elizabeth Mahlou said...

It may be that today's "shepherds" are much easier to follow than to walk in the path that Jesus walked. The values of Jesus are not necessarily incompatible with today's society but they are rarely the first implemented. I am right now in the middle of an intense discussion with a senior manager who works for me who wants to hire a very capable, but unkind, mission-over-people-oriented, young man as her assistant manager. I, of course, can veto her choice, and I did. She does have an excellent choice in front her -- a very gentle, humble, kind and equally, if not more, capable applicant. However, she does not want him. Her words: "He is weak." It is extraordinarily difficult for me to get the senior managers who work for me to understand that:

(1) Power grows more when you give it away than when you keep it to yourself;

(2) The most effective master is the most devoted servant; servant leadership builds far more effective organizations than those that are focused on hierarchy, privilege, and chain-of-command authority;

(3) It is more important to do the right thing than it is to things right (i.e., loving perfectly is better than following the rule book perfectly);

(4) The best way to work effectively with "difficult" people is to love them sincerely.

Of course, I myself stumble on this path that I would have the leadership who work for me follow, but if we don't follow the path that Jesus put before us, we are going to be more and more lost the farther we proceed down any other one, aren't we?

Brother Charles said...

Stay strong, Elizabeth. Thanks for the reflection!