Brothers and Sisters this is a homily after the Gospel. But sometimes it is necessary for those who are shepherds to give some advice to the sheep who are lost. Take it or leave it.
All throughout the Bible, salvation history is giving us lessons about our place in the world. Some of these lessons are hard to take. Some easy. Today’s lesson is a little of both, I think.
Let me jump to today’s times. If we look around at our town, neighborhood, faith community, there seem to be those who are turning this message a bit on its head. What I mean is that there are some people who are waiting for the shepherd to come and help them. They are in trouble or in difficulty or just angry at what’s happening and they want a strong shepherd, leader, father-figure to fix things. I sometimes wish for this as well.
I am the good shepherd, says the Lord,
I know my sheep, and mine know me.
This is today’s Alleluia from the Apostle John.
“In verdant pastures he gives me repose,” from the Psalm. “In good pastures I will pasture them…” from the First Reading.
Now who is doing this pasturing, feeding, protecting, leading? The Lord God Almighty, Jesus Christ. And we, who are shepherds, are enjoined to go out and find lost sheep and take care of them. Not just the clergy, not just religious…everyone is responsible for the lost sheep. Who among us will not go out and find the sheep that is lost?
But today I fear that some of us are waiting for the shepherd to come and save us. The strong man, the leader, the capable woman, the boss, the politician…somebody who is going to fix the disordered world we find ourselves in today. It’s in every headline, every news story or broadcast, every political missive that comes in our mail or on our smart phone. “We need someone who can fix these problems! We need a leader!”
And then, “I am someone who can fix these problems! Make me your leader!”
You know where this is going. So let me get back to reality. All of today’s readings tell me one thing. I am a shepherd and I need to take care of my sheep. The One I trust, as it says on our coins, is God. There is no message that anyone other than God will save us. No matter what’s going on in our lives, everywhere, not just in the readings, we are urged to take matters into our own hands. Yes we are to rely on God, but here where we are temporarily living, we need to rely on ourselves.
No, I am not speaking as one who thinks there should be no help from others. I am saying that the shepherd is ourselves, not some politician, boss, or pastor. When we begin to take charge of our own lives, with God’s help, then we are fulfilling the lessons of today’s Gospel. We are the sinners. We must repent. And we must tend to our own sheep, our own neighbors.
And if you remember the Gospel of Luke, you know who your neighbor is. Sometimes we are the fallen man needing help, sometimes we are the Samaritan. But Jesus tells us that help is given by those who can and not to be expected from anyone but God.
So maybe I need forgiveness for venturing into a quasi-political diatribe. But today’s readings have led me down that path. Then if I need forgiveness, please forgive. If I need applause, please rejoice.
In all cases, let us rely on the Lord to show us the path. And then let us assist those we find on the path with us.
Lord, Let the words of my mouth, and the meditation of my heart, be acceptable in thy sight, O LORD, my strength, and my redeemer.