SOMEONE TO LEAD THE SHEEP
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock and bring them back to their meadow. (First Reading).
Some of our children could help us today in remembering a childhood rhyme: “Humpty Dumpty sat on a wall. Humpty dumpty had a great fall! All the kings horses and all the kings men could not put Humpty Dumpty together again.”
Did you ever in all these years know that Humpty Dumpty was not originally an egg, but a battle ship in the time of the English civil war in the 18th century? The ship was destroyed in the waters before being able to serve as an assault instrument in the war. It could not be rebuilt. This divided up the warriors and stunned them.
THE WEAKENED CHURCH
Like those warriors, the sheep in today’s scriptures are dispersed because of the lack of a leader. Something has happened in recent society where the source of hope seems to have broken down. The Church is like that battle ship, the Humpty Dumpty, which was destroyed in the waters. The Church has frequently been referred to as the ship on the sea of life leading us to the port of God’s kingdom.
When we look at the way the Church has been weakened in recent years and set adrift in a broken nature, we are beginning to see the need of getting someone who will once again gather us into an effective instrument of salvation for humanity. The moral breakdown of society, the divisions within the Church and some of its important leaders, the attack against the institutional Church here in America and throughout the world, in the near East, in China, in Europe, all remind us that Humpty Dumpty had a great fall.
The Church has been weakened at her roots and as happens in so many disasters, the spirit of evil comes to run away with the spoils. A couple of weeks ago, we mentioned how Glen Beck said that today we are all Catholics. This week one of the presidential nominees spoke the same words once again. There is an attack against the sheep and the shepherds are being challenged, some of them imprisoned or silenced, attacked or challenged by tearing at their reputation. All those who seek a true shepherd to lead them are now encouraged to be removed from the stronger support of the faith.
Now we have been divided and weakened as children of God. Jeremiah speaks of woe to those who have divided the sheep. He also makes the prophecy that God will “appoint new shepherds for them who will shepherd them”.
Across the lands and even into our own nation, community and homes we experience the presence of appointed shepherds who have not given proper leadership to the sheep. Those in authority must realize that they share in a very serious responsibility to lead the children and the people first and foremost into ways of justice and righteousness. Sometimes we have failed to be parents, teachers, ministers and servants of mankind without a serious sense of the example we must give in leading each other to the port of the kingdom.
A NEW SHEPHERD
Joshua, son of Nun, was the first Jeshua (Jesus) to lead the people to the Promised Land. He foreshadowed the second Jesus who was to become the one great Shepherd to lead the sheep into the Kingdom of Heaven. Putting Humpty Dumpty together again, putting the church into a renewed unity, demands a serious commitment to following Jesus our healing and uniting shepherd.
In the Gospel we hear how Jesus who sent his disciples out to preach against the challenges of the world gathers them now to lead them into a place of quiet, to be renewed and be healed. Next week we will open our readings to the Gospel of John and meditate on the role of the Eucharist in the life of the Church. This week before we leave the Gospel of Mark who has invited us to accept our teaching role in the Church, we are initiated to the hunger of mankind and the need to feed them.
We need in the face of a recent breakdown against the Church to recognize the real hunger of humanity: the hunger for the saving presence of Christ.
We can elect, long for, seek and hope for as many types of leaders and people of quality that might straighten out the break in humanity. None will suffice until each and everyone one of us returns to the call of Jesus. Paul tells us that Jesus is the one who breaks down the walls of enmity. In the 7th Century the Venerable Bede gives us this thought: Jesus tested the crowd’s faith, and having done so he gave it a fitting reward. He sought out a lonely place to see if they would take the trouble to follow him.
The way we gather together to follow Jesus is by hearing the word of truth in the Liturgy of the Word and being fed by the Bread of Life in the Liturgy of the Eucharist. We need to find in our sacramental gathering here at Mass a real deep call to open our hearts and not only the doors of our homes to society and the doors to the Church to fulfill a sacred function. A renewal of the priority of Christ in our hearts, as king of our homes and as shepherd of the people, is essential to a true spiritual revival in the world. Kingdoms have failed, empires have fallen and national powers have been squelched. Only the shepherding of Christ has the power to lead us to victory.
We have been reminded how our weakness in following Christ was the incentive to empower choices that will break down the moral code of Christianity. Now we must be reminded that our strength in following the Shepherd will be the power that negates the weaker choices of broken society. When “the Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.”
How do we put Humpty Dumpty together again? How does the Church take up its role of shepherding once again? When we each make a choice to gather with the holy ones and allow Christ to become our true Shepherd. Conversion will begin in Eucharist and from there the new Joshua, Jesus Christ, will conquer the walls of today’s Jericho, today’s unholy society, to return all things to the power and leadership of God. Whether you look at it from spiritual, social or political viewpoints, the answer is the same: the Lord will lead us into the right paths for the sake of His Name. We gather in His Name that we may be lead into the ways of peace.