"The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want." (Psalm 23:1)
Today’s Scripture readings reveal a God who cares deeply about us, about how we are being taken care of and about the kind of life that we are living.
Many of us want a God of quick fixes, a God who addresses my needs, my hurts, my sufferings. We want a God who intervenes in our life directly and promptly. We want a God who should spare us of difficulties, of painful experiences, of terrible human happenings that bring us pain and sorrow.
Instead, God calls people to shepherd us throughout our lives, people who will announce the Good News of God’s Love, people who will bring healing and salvation to our souls and spirits, people who will challenge us to change the way we live so that we can all be God’s children and we can all share in God’s blessings.
God cares deeply for all people and not just individual persons. God is vitally concern about our quality of life and invites us to become God’s people, a community of peace and justice for all, a community that Jesus describes as "the Reign of God."
God knows that people are the most vulnerable when they are hurting, when they are violated, when they are suffering deep personal pain. That is why, in today’s readings, God wants us to have the best "shepherds" to care for us when we are in these terrible situations, the best ministers who can bring about healing and reconciliation, peace and justice, indeed, salvation and redemption for all. That is why God has sent us Jesus, God’s Only Son, to bring us the fullness of redemption by an unconditional act of love. And that is why Jesus chose to die on the Cross. That is why we hold Jesus the Christ, Jesus the Son of God and the Son of Mary, Jesus our Lord and Redeemer, as the incomparable model of the Good Shepherd. This is why Jesus’ heart was moved with pity when He saw the crowd coming to him and why He was willing to die on the Cross for our salvation and redemption.
God warns us of those "shepherds" who take advantage of our vulnerability to mislead and to mistreat the people of God. We know that these false shepherds are out there. Sometimes they mask themselves as leaders of countries and nations, or as powerful and wealthy people who defraud and accumulate riches by lies and deception. Sometimes they take the form of entertainers and popular personalities whom people admire for their God given talent. Most often, though, they are people like us, who preach the path of least resistance, the easy way out, the gospel of convenience and quick fixes.
When Jesus sent out the apostles to teach and preach and to heal and save, he was aware that there were scribes and Pharisees teaching and preaching and that there were priests and religious leaders who were offering sacrifices and prayers. But Jesus required a different kind of teacher, a different kind of preacher, a different kind of priest. He wanted apostles whose hearts could be moved with pity when they saw people suffering, who could bring words of reconciliation and peace where there was violence, shepherds who could bring everlasting life where there was death. He wanted us, his ordinary followers, to be his apostles, disciples, priests and prophets. Thus, we all are called to be Good Shepherds!
Fr. Clemente Barron, C.P. is a member of the General Council of the Passionist Congregation and is stationed in Rome.