Our readings this week are about God’s love. The first reading depicts that love as an intimate one; His affection for us is like that of a mother suckling her child at her breast. The Gospel prays that all will come to those nurturing loving arms. Lets confess if we fail to appreciate his deep love for us..
Sheep without a shepherd. In the Holy Land sheep that had no shepherd wandered aimlessly in the desert and were lost or eaten by wolves. How apt for our time, when many spurn Christ’s caring arms for the spiritual desert of the world. But That’s not new. In Jesus’s day that was also the case. He had to send out the apostles then and after Pentecost, to bring his lost wandering people back to God’s saving arms. He asks us to pray and be similar apostles today. For even the Irish flock secured by Patrick and kept safe down the ages, is an easy prey now to the worldly wolves and philosophies of today, from consumerism to materialism, drugs, unemployment and recession. We see the drug scourge ravish many now. It reflects a deeper tide that threatens to destroy all in body and soul, especially our youth. The evil one, the wolf of the soul, always targets the vulnerable lambs.
In each age the good shepherd’s fight to save such souls is the key battle. “Ill raise up shepherds to look after them” Christ says, his heart burning to save his beloved lambs. Let us pray for good priests, bishops and laity to help him in that, to revitalize the church and bring back the lost. Sure,
some shepherds have failed us in recent times, but there’s nothing new in that either. Christ attacked the religious shepherds of his day for serving their own power and wealth and neglecting the flock. Criticism of bad shepherds rife today is good; it reminds us of what we should be. For the constant temptation of authorities in church and state is to serve their own interests and institutions rather than the needy flock. Recent clerical scandal are cases in point, showing how vital good pastors who imitate Christ are. He washed people’s feet and said that leaders in church and state should humbly serve all.
That’s what we need today: good lay apostles, priests, bishops and even Popes who care for all the lambs of God diligently. Of course, the church like all institutions is human and will never be perfect. But we need renewal now as never before. We must bring to book bad shepherds of church and state. Scandals are one way God is doing that now. He is bringing down the corrupt and mighty, so that service of the vulnerable may be prioritized again. Recent abuse revelations and restitution are his way of doing that. For exploitation of the innocent is a crime God never let’s go unpunished. We priests need the present dose of humility as a wake up call. For Christ begged his shepherds not to lord it over people. However, we mustn’t use the fact that some shepherds failed, as an excuse to abandon the faith, throwing out the baby with the bath water. Rather lets back the renewal going on. For a vast needy flock of lambs are out there crying for spiritual guidance in an increasingly violent, immoral desert world. Abandoning the good fight helps no one. For if our times prove anything its that spiritual and moral chaos serves no one. The collapse of the family, drugs, killings and so on must be counteracted. The challenge for us is to be true shepherds in this context. With the good shepherd’s help we can and must do that. For this world’s values of which Satan is lord leave us empty for this world and the next, but Christ is lord of goodness and salvation both for this world and forever and ever, amen.
As God’s people called to be soul-nourishing shepherds for Christ in our world of today, lets profess our faith with new hope…
Prayers of the Faithful
And as God’s children held in his arms lets pray for what we need
For our Holy Father the Pope that he may be a true shepherd of the flock, so that people everywhere may suck the milk of faith, wisdom and salvation from the loving breast of mother church..
For civil leaders; may they be conscious of the needs of all the people in these difficult times and serve all as good shepherds..
For our wonderful generous youth that they may remain safe in the tender arms of the lord and his holy church..
For ourselves in our homes, communities and country that we may be true shepherds to our children and spouses. nurturing them with love and care as God nurtures us in Christ..
For the sick that through our care and love they may know the love of God in their lives..
For the dead that they may come to the loving arms of the Father with the help of our prayers..
And we ask all these prayers through Christ, the good shepherd who cares for us his flock tenderly forever and ever, amen.
I often think that the world of today is very like that which St.Francis encountered. He was the son of a rich merchant but heard God calling him to rebuild the church. He went around dressed in rough clothes helping the poor and preaching a new return to God in a world where both the church and society had become corrupt, and the faith was foundering. He might be addressing the church and society of the Celtic Tiger, or what’s left of it now, calling it back to earth again and true values of faith, enduring riches. Lets ask Mary to make us Francises for today..Hail Mary.