"Woe to the Shepherds who have been shepherding themselves." Ez 34
"Are you envious because I am generous?" Mt 20
The Lord is my shepherd there is nothing I shall want." Ps 23
Who among us has not been recently overwhelmed with the kindness, the generosity and the attention to our needs? None of these gifts are given without someone paying attention, without noticing and taking time to tend to us.
Time, sharing and attention…where have these gifts gone? This is not to attack or ridicule anyone for lack of these gifts. I guess the main point of this observation is to recall the many, many times we have been the recipient of the goodness of family, friends and even strangers.
The prophet Ezechiel has lost his "cool" as he addresses the official shepherds of the people. Maybe I should have said, God has lost His "cool." God minces no words as he challenges the shepherds face to face. It seems that the good things that should have been shared with the "sheep" got lost. The protection that they needed was not given. The shepherds kept all the good things for themselves. "You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured. You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost, but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally. So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd, and became food for all the wild beasts. My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills; my sheep were scattered over the whole earth, with no one to look after them or to search for them."
If you are like me, (God forbid!) I get preoccupied with tasks, I hurry by people at times and miss what is really going on. Or I put my expectations on others, forgetting that they have their own concerns or worries or stresses or sorrows: all of which can be a heavy burden that often times is overlooked. My compassion has flown out the window. How can I forget so easily that I too have concerns or worries or stressful situations or sorrows that can affect my ability to take care of my needs. What a joy it would be to have someone ask, "Can I help you?"
Jesus, in Matthew’s gospel, points out another lack of goodness. "Are you envious because I am generous?" Oh, it happens too often as I forget the generosity extended to others including me. But what has happened to my memory of all the good that God has done for me?! "The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side. With your rod and your staff that give me courage."
None of us need to wear a badge or other form of identity to indicate that we are a shepherd. But, oh, how often the opportunity presents itself to reach out in loving concern for our sisters and brothers. Will you and I never let a day pass without thanking God and our sisters and brothers for being our Shepherd. And will this spur us on to notice a sister or brother who is in need of a shepherd: you and me.
Fr. Peter Berendt, C.P. is on the staff of Holy Name Passionist Retreat Center, Houston, Texas.