This past week, we’ve really entered into the 2020 political season with the announcement of the Democratic VP candidate and the beginning of the Democratic National Convention.
I hate politics, so I grumble every time I watch tv and see news about candidates or scroll on my phone and see 1000 political ads. Ugh. I just want to make it all go away.
As much as I hate the months leading up to our elections, leadership in a social structure is really important and so this time is necessary and something we need to pay attention to. Fine, but even so, sometimes I daydream about being a wild animal, running free, not having to worry about any of this nonsense. Then reality hits.
1) I’m not a wild animal, I’m a human being living in a society.
2) Even animals have social structures and leaders.
The one that easily comes to mind is a lion.
We’ve all seen the Lion King and know that they have an alpha male that runs the pride, but there is a hierarchy among the female lions too. In order for the lions to live successfully in a group, they need to be able to hunt for food and protect their young. In order to do this effectively, the strongest and best female hunter is seen as the leader and will direct the others to different duties. This organization helps them to thrive. There is cooperation mixed with obedience. The alpha female will direct the women of the pride until she can’t. Once she becomes too old or unable to hunt, some other female will take her place as the leader.
On this coming Sunday, our gospel reading tells of Peter being given the keys to the kingdom. He is deemed leader of the church. (Matthew 16:18-19)
Similar to the passing on of leadership among the lions, this role has been passed down from Peter all the way down through the years to our current pope, Pope Francis. He has led our church through a number of different struggles since 2013, but he was serving and leading the Catholic Church for many years before that.
It is true that we have a single pope that leads our Church, but there are many other leadership roles in the Catholic faith. The clerical hierarchy goes
We listen to the wisdom of the pope and the cardinals, but it’s unlikely that many of us have ever sat down with them to be personally led in our faith. All levels of this hierarchy are extremely important which brings new importance to today’s first reading, Ezekial 34:1-11.
This reading speaks to ALL shepherds. It warns them of how they are leading God’s flock. Unlike lions who have a distinct hierarchy, it is understood that sheep have flocking tendencies, they long to follow someone, anyone. This may have been why they were one of the first livestock animals to be domesticated. When they have a leader, they will follow.
God’s people are often described as sheep because God has set shepherds to lead them, but as Ezekial points out, they don’t always lead their flock well. When reading these verses, one passage aimed at “the shepherds” stood out to me:
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.
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.
OH MAN! Read that again. These words are so strong, so powerful. As a part of this flock, I often feel like I have been left to the wild beasts. I just spoke 2 weeks ago about how I felt lost. Where are my shepherds? Are our leaders working to strengthen the weak and heal the sick?
Some great priests are, but not all of them. As a lay person, it feels like there is very little that I can do. It is not my place to reprimand priests/bishops/etc if they ever do fail. It IS my place, though, to be a shepherd in my own right. I am not a part of the clerical hierarchy, but I CAN lead the flock of God towards heaven. I CAN be a good influence on the people around me. I CAN strengthen the weak and heal the sick.
So I will.
Will you join me? There are so many around us that are hurting. There are so many who are doubting the truth of the Church. Will you step up and help them? Will you reach out to assist them? Our world needs strong leaders, good and holy shepherds. Look at the people around you. I challenge you to serve those around you this week. I encourage you to lead them, to show them the joy of heaven by showing them the love of the Lord. How will you do that this week?