Saturday, July 18, 2015

The Sunday Word

The sheep are looking right at us to see if we're taking time to look over the Scriptures for this coming weekend, the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time.

This Sunday's first Scripture, from the prophet Jeremiah, is a condemnation of unfaithful shepherds and the Lord's pledge to replace them with more faithful shepherds.

God declared that He would indeed gather the flock of Israel together again after the exile and “raise up shepherds” to lead them. Indeed, God would restore the line of David’s kingship that had been so corrupted by the likes of Jehoiakim and others who led the nation into disaster. This new Shepherd-King, the Messiah, would rule over a reunited flock and bring salvation and safety to his people. Unlike many of his royal ancestors, this king would rule with “justice and righteousness.”

Jesus would later adopt this shepherd imagery to describe and define his own mission as the Messiah, seeking the lost sheep and calling himself the “good shepherd.” Jesus’ disciples would use the same terms to describe their leadership in the Christian movement after Jesus’ ascension. Jesus was still the “chief shepherd” but his representatives were also known as “pastors” or “shepherds. "

Unlike the kings of old, however, the shepherds of the newborn church were not defined by their power, genealogy or the public symbols of office. Look closely at the list of qualifications for spiritual leaders that Paul presents in 1 Timothy and Titus and it becomes clear that the qualifications for a “pastor” or “guardian” were much more about character and conduct than charm and charisma.

Beyond that, the good shepherd will also represent Christ. Ultimately, Jesus provides us with the best model for the authenticity of a shepherd. A true shepherd takes care of the sheep.