Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock...
His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd
Today's readings focus on the role and ministry of the shepherd. Jeremiah prophesied against those who did not shepherd well. I have known some people who seem to share the same sentiment. I am sorry to say I have been among them at times. They blame things on others in their lives. Typically it is our fathers who come in for the worst of it. We say it is because of things he did that we are like we are. Then there are the vast numbers of people who have left the Church because they didn't like things their pastors said or did. And, of course, we are always fond of heaping numerous reproaches upon those in our government.
These all reflect various levels of authority, or shepherds. It is true that there are some who are worthy of the rebuke of Jeremiah's prophecy. Certainly the shepherds of his day were, and some of our own are as well. But I believe there are many more who are sincerely trying to do the best they can, but fail simply because they are human and not divine.
Today's passages are not intended to cause us to see people as good guys or bad guys. It is not to provide an opportunity to point the finger and say how bad someone is doing as a shepherd. Rather, we are to see that the best of us will fail and so we need a shepherd that is better than all of us. We need Jesus.
The Psalmist says, "The Lord is my shepherd." Our Lord Jesus Christ announced to us, "I am the good shepherd." In our Gospel reading we are told that on this occasion our Lord saw the crowds and was moved with deep compassion because they were like sheep scattered without a shepherd. Our Lord is a good shepherd and He is continually seeking the lost sheep. He longs to be the shepherd of us all.
Only Christ does it perfectly. The rest of us fail. We fail as parents, teachers, leaders, pastors, and government officials. We all fail. There are no exceptions to that statement. We need to be a bit more patient with those who lead us. We need to pray for them. We need to think what it would be like to be in their shoes. While it may be tempting to think we would do a better job, we should rather soberly reflect on the weight of their responsibility and try to help in any way we can.
I know I have failed many times. I think there are a fair amount of people out there who think I am a jerk and Jeremiah's prophecy applies to me. If any of those people are reading this, I am truly very sorry for my mistakes. With that in mind, I am asking God to help me be fair to the shepherds in my life and pray for them continually. Then I am also asking to be reminded that Jesus is my true Shepherd, and He will never fail. So I should go to Him continually.
Today, if you are a shepherd who has wronged your sheep, don't waste a moment to go and ask their forgiveness. And if you are a sheep who has been bitterly holding on to your grudge against your shepherd, then give it up. Be reconciled to them, commit to pray for them, and surrender all to the true shepherd of our souls.
May our Lord, the Good Shepherd, guide us all safely home through the various pitfalls of this life as we daily turn to follow the sound of His voice!