In our first reading Jeremiah attacks bad pastors: “I’ll raise up true shepherds to look after them”. And Christ says: “they were like sheep without a shepherd”. Lets pray for good shepherds for today and confess ways we fail our own little flocks..
“Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock to be scattered”. These words send a shiver down my spine. So do Christ’s words: “he took pity on them for they were like sheep without a shepherd”. There are many like this today. Abandoning the church, they are rudderless, living as I read in a recent survey of young people’s attitudes, in the empty “here and now” with no regard for soul’s depth for this world or the next. Its frightening but not new. Jeremiah’s words, from 3000 years ago are still true. But there is also consolation in God’s pomise to the prophet: “I will raise up shepherds to look after them…not one shall be lost, it is the lord who speaks”. We priests, bishops, and lay ministers must be such shepherds, leading all back to the fold.
We find criticism now in newspapers and Prime Time of those who failed in this. But Christ was as hard on corrupt shepherds of his day, religious authorities who served their interests rather than the needy flock. “Be guided by them in matters of faith, do not do as they do”, he said. He himself not only preached but lived the true shepherd role, washing people’s feet and saying that the greatest is the servant of all. The true role of priests, bishops and even the Pope is defined by Christ as service of the servants of God. Are we that? Have we rather palaces to protect? Do we rather cover up for one another, like a self-serving club, not God’s church? History doesn’t change; the church, human as well divine, always needs reform. The consolation is that Christ constantly does that, creating new prophets and leaders when administrations become partial.
This is true not only of bad shepherds of the church but also of the state. He constantly brings down the mighty and exalts the lowly. So I see Providence’s hand in recent revelations of priestly and ministerial corruption. For the abuse of the weak or the people’s trust is a crime God dare not ignore. His prophets today are the media, but the corrupt powerful always encounter some scourge of God. For He abhors corruption and injustice, whatever its source. Scripture rings like a bell down the ages: “doom on the shepherds who allow the sheep to be scattered”.
Indeed modern organs of criticism join scripture in this, they are part of a divine process by which, as Christ says “he who exalts himself will be humbled and he who humbles homself will be exalted”. We priests need a dose of humility. Archbishops in their palaces, indeed all of us, should shiver at God’s word: “you must not lord it over them, the greatest among you must be servants of all”. But this applies not just to spiritual and government leaders. We’re all shepherds in some form, at home, in school, in the workplace. We all face justice for any oppression of innocents in our care. The Lord hears the cry of the poor scripture says. He demands real humble service of others like Christ gave unto death. The flock are out there, crying for caring mothers and fathers too in a violent, godless, immoral age. We the shepherds, whatever our leadership role, must lead all with humble love. For every day we read of young people beating up the old and the weak for a few euros, high on drugs or drink. Spiritual foundation gone, they’ve nothing to sustain them in the jungle of a recession world. The challenge for shepherds is to be there for them, lights and true examples. For we need to be saved in every age from the ruthless shepherd that is Satan and his worldly minions. We must be the Savior’s hands of love and care for all our children. For all else fades but only our love and goodness in Christ is light forever, amen. So as God’s people praying for good shepherds in church and state to lead us with wisdom and integrity, lets profess our faith..
Prayers of the faithful
For our Holy Father and bishops of the church that they may feed the people of God by preaching and living the Word humbly, and so pointing all to happiness, wisdom and integrity in Christ..
For our civil leaders that they may serve the people under their care well, expecially the poor and most vulnerable in society..
For our young people that they may come every Sunday to the table of the Word and the Eucharist, and so be fed by Christ, the good shepherd, unto greatness of life for this world and the next..
For ourselves, may we go from the table of the Lord to carry his faith, love, peace and grace to our chidren, our workmates and our community, and so be good shepherds of our small flock.
For the sick that through regular or First Friday reception of the eucharist they may know the comfort, care and healing of Christ, the Good Shepherd.
For the dead that having received Christ regularly here below they may come to the promised final resurrection and to the highest heaven through our prayers & masses…
We ask all these prayers through Christ who is lord of all the living forever and ever, amen.
You may know the story of the prince and the swallow who fed the poor of a great city until they were thrown on the scrap heap by the council. That story is the gospel. Our prince is Christ the Good Shepherd who stripped himself of glory to feed and save us. He cast off his golden clothes and ended up on the scrap heap of the cross. Lets ask Mother Mary to help all leaders to be his hands and heart to all those in their care..Hail Mary.