Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Shepherding the Flock

Readings for Wednesday, August 18:
Ezekiel 34:1-11
Psalm 23:1-6
Matthew 20:1-16

Our scriptures today clearly speak to us of the nature of shepherding. Ezekiel paints us a picture of a nation whose shepherds cared not for their flock but for themselves. Those wicked shepherds even went so far as to abuse the sheep and use them for the shepherds’ own benefit. This sort of shepherd cannot stand long in the sight of the Lord, and we hear the Lord Himself tell us “I myself will look after and tend my sheep.” And so He did.

The Lord cared for His people from afar until Christ was born of the Blessed Virgin Mary. When Christ came into the world, we knew the face of God and the Good Shepherd. Christ fed the flock of Israel and He guarded them and led them to the Father. And when He was about to suffer through His passion, He entrusted the care of the flock, the Church, to Saint Peter. And for nearly two thousand years, the pope, the successor of Saint Peter, has been shepherding the earthly flock of Christ.

The gospel of Matthew provides a stark contrast from the story of Ezekiel, instead showing us a landowner – a shepherd of sorts – who truly cares for his flock. Pope Benedict XVI seems to have modeled his priesthood and papacy after this very passage, taking the landowner as a model shepherd. The landowner goes out five times in the course of the day seeking to give work to the laborers. He doesn’t go out looking to make profit for himself and take advantage of others, but rather he goes out and upon hearing that they have not been hired, shows them compassion and love and invites them to work in his vineyard to earn a days wage. He pays them equally, unconcerned about himself.

Pope Benedict, modeling himself after this man, has continually reached out to others in the world, inviting them to come labor in the vineyard of the Church, working out their salvation. He has had great dialogues with Orthodox Churches of the East who are not yet in union with the Church. He has made it possible to bring large groups of Anglicans home to the Church. And he is currently working with a number of other groups to try to bring back other sheep who have wandered off. He does this not for his own prestige or glory. Rather, he does it for love of the sheep.

Today, as we gather here at this altar, we call to mind the love the Holy Father has for his flock and offer prayers for him, as well all bishops and priests, that they might always have the heart of the Good Shepherd in tending to their flock.