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. Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: “The Lord our justice.”
Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Gospel Cycle Cycle B
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Are we like sheep without a shepherd? What does that mean for me? Am I unable to make my own decisions? As we listen to Christ in the Gospel today, we must ask ourselves about what it means to follow Him.
The first reading, from the Prophet Jeremiah, seems to be a commentary on the Gospel. Religious leaders can often mislead us! It has happened for centuries and even for millennia. All we have to think of today is about the enormous scandal of sexual abuse in our Catholic Church. What righteous indignation there was about bishops and priests who were hiding these scandals—and thus making them even more possible.
We must be wise and prudent Christians, however, and know that there is a difference between a person hiding a scandal because he is ashamed and a person hiding a scandal because he is involved! Modern media does not make those kinds of distinctions. We make them not to excuse anyone, but to try to understand an dlove others. We Christians have to forgive even those who have abused others sexually or in any other way.
Those of us who are priests or deacons or bishops and those of us who are involved in any way in the leadership of the Church must work very hard today to regain our credibility within the Church. We must always be on the side of those victimized by persons in authority in the Church. We must help them, even if it means ruining the present financial situation of the Church. We must also have compassion for those who have abused others, even if it means being rejected by others.
To really live as Christ lived is very difficult—we need to be clear about that.
We can also ponder a bit about people involved in leadership in the Church who do not abuse, but who do sin. Not every sin is a case of abuse, even under present law. But every sin hurts the Body of Christ and disfigures the face of Christ visible in the Church.
Jeremiah, our first reading for today, calls for repentance on the part of those shepherds who mislead God’s people. Jeremiah promises that God will send good shepherds to lead God’s people. Perhaps in our Catholic Church we always took it for granted that those in positions of leadership were good shepherds, especially in these past 100 years of history. If we look at the middle ages of Christian history, we find popes, bishops, nuns, monks, priests, etc., and other involved in some pretty bad situations. Many of us today would be totally scandalized! Yet the Church survived. Probably you and I would not want to be part of the Church at various moments in history, yet the saints managed to become holy even in the midst of scandals and truly evil moral conduct on the part of the leadership of the Church and on the part of the general membership.
If we turn to a more positive view of today’s readings, then we must summon one another to follow Christ more faithfully. We must learn how to insist that those in leadership lead truly holy lives—even as we forgive their failings. We are never invited to be self-righteous! We may never condemn another person. Rather we Christians can condemn evil actions and the failure to condemn what is truly evil. But whenever a person sincerely asks pardon for his or her sinfulness, no matter how awful that sinfulness, we must forgive.
It is in the following of Christ that we Christians remain different from the standards of the world. The world condemns without any hope of forgiveness. All we have to do, often, is listen to “talk radio” or similar types of communications. There is such anger and such lack of any possible forgiveness. We cannot live that way and be faithful to Christ.
For our own spirituality today, we must strive to live good and holy lives and lives that are deeply faithful to Christ’s teachings. Only when we live in Christ are we able to see the brokenness of our world and not condemn others. We must be fearless and loving in demanding true Christian leadership in our communities. We must be prudent in all that we do—not for the sake of hiding anything but for sake of loving everyone.
Then we can truly say with the second reading from Ephesians: Christ is our peace.