Jeremiah 23, 1-6; Psalm 22; Ephesians 2, 13-18; Mark 6, 30-34
Note: Filipino version in the previous post.
In the history of the Jewish people, the shepherd was the image of leadership. It was not easy to be a shepherd during those times. They had to find greener pasture for their flock; diligently watched every single sheep so that not one would fall prey to wolves and found themselves in another’s fold. That was why, they had to know each one of them and the sheep in turn should recognize his voice apart from the rest of the shepherds who were also guarding their own flock. In the past, the flock was owned by the community, so that when a sheep was lost, he was accountable to them. He had to comb the mountains and scour for the lost sheep. And when he was able to find them, it was the community who rejoiced over one sheep that was lost.
On the other hand, flocks without shepherds easily scattered. The prophesy of a future son of David in the first reading began with the accusation that the leaders of Israel, the “shepherds” had been responsible for the exile. Yahweh said to different prophets like Jeremiah that He would punish these leaders because they had no heart for the flock under their care. So the Lord took away their power and chose real shepherds like Moses and David to gather the sheep once again and return them to Yahweh.
But the successors of these chosen shepherds did not fulfill their duties until the coming of the Messiah. The role of becoming the perfect Shepherd to God’s people had been fulfilled and realized through Jesus. The Lord was able to feed the people’s hunger for the Word of God. And just like the perfect shepherd, He offered His life for the flock. This selfless giving of His life was the ultimate sign of the true Shepherd. In addition, His death and resurrection restored and reconciled the scattered people of God to the Father.
We all know too well the struggle of the lost and confused. We become bewildered when the truth is hazy. The film, Doubt, illustrates this point: we do not know who is speaking the truth and who is tweaking it. Sr. Aloysius (Meryl Streep) perpetuated a story that raised suspicion for Fr. Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) that he was having an affair with their only black student. This is the same with news dailies. We do not know who is speaking the truth and who is concocting falsity. Like many leaders of the past, our leaders have been greedy for wealth and power. With the present ‘shepherding’ crisis, we face a scattered and confused people without an icon of truth to guide them. Think of the many children left to themselves because of absentee or emotionally distant parents.
In the advent of a national election in our country, we should take seriously the exercise of choosing the best candidate to lead us. Who among the names on the list possess the qualities of a good shepherd? Moreover, we should also focus on issues that encourage division or threatens our unity as a people; and see who among them are proponents of unjust structures.
During the time of the Old Testament, the community elected the shepherd to care for their flock. The Lord chose the leader by anointing their heads with oil, the way the prophets who are at the Lord’s service poured oil on David. In our baptism, we were anointed with chrism, the same oil used for the leaders of yore. Thus today, it is a sacred duty of Christians to truly discern and elect rightly their leaders, according to their qualifications and character: people who truly love God and their country. Not according to the amount they give to buy our right, our freedom and our souls.