YEAR B: HOMILY FOR THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
HOMILY THEME: WOE TO THE SHEPHERDS WHO DESTROY THE SHEEP.
BY: Fr. Evaristus Abu
“You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. Behold, I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord.” Jeremiah 23:2.
Why do children need their parents? Why do people need leaders? Why do companies and organizations need chairmen or boards? Why does a nation need a President? Why do sheep need shepherds? The answer to all of these questions is the same. Without leaders, a people are bound to perish.
So what happens when the so-called shepherds by their actions and inactions begin to destroy the sheep? In truth, having a bad shepherd is just as good as not having a shepherd at all. Jesus looked at the whole crowd of people flocking towards Him and felt compassion for them because it was obvious that their flocking to him was a result of the failure of their shepherds. He said they were like sheep without a shepherd and despite His tiredness as a person, Jesus took it upon himself to teach the people.
Before we jump into talking about bad shepherds, mentioning examples and case studies, we need to first ask ourselves two important questions: What type a shepherd am I? And what makes me a good shepherd?
*Lesson One: Know that you are a Shepherd.*
The first point we must all bear in mind today is that God has done it in such a way that every single person no matter how small has a sphere of influence, power or authority over at least one other person. To put it simply, we are all shepherds. David was not yet King of Israel before he started seeing himself as a shepherd. You don’t need to wait until you become the President or the Governor before you start being the good shepherd you desire to see.
A child of ten who cannot share food with his younger ones and decides to eat alone what is meant for everyone will not automatically become a good President tomorrow. A youth who cannot keep one hundred naira meant for his association will not suddenly manage millions kept under his care later in life. Indeed, the saying is true that a people always get the leaders they deserve, or better put, the nature of a leader is always a direct reflection of the nature of his people.
Our country’s problem is not solely a problem of leadership, it is, first of all,s a problem of followership. If people can openly sell their votes for thousands of naira as we saw recently in Ekiti, it means that as ordinary electorates, we are bad shepherds to our own children and we do not deserve any future better than what we are currently complaining about.
*Lesson Two: The Good Shepherd is An Agent of Unity and Peace.*
Historians can attest to the fact that the success of the colonial rule in this country was largely due to the principle of “divide and rule.” The easiest way to conquer a people is to emphasize their differences and make them enemies of each other. If you look carefully at our first reading, God’s major accusation against the bad shepherds is this: “You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away…”
While politicians are busy drinking wine and sharing the money, we the ordinary citizens are made to believe that religious differences are our problem. Killings are being sponsored, farmlands are destroyed, livestocks are rustled and so on just to fuel the false narrative that Muslims hate Christians or that Christians want Muslims dead. While the poor masses are sharpening their swords and knives, stocking bullets and guns, those who pretend to represent the people are jumping from party to party so as to remain close to the money.
We must realize that there are only two parties in this country: the party of the rich (one percent of the population) and the party of the poor (ninety-nine percent). The party of the rich love themselves, religion is not their problem, tribal differences are not even their concern, their quarrels are only artificial and are they are able to sustain their wealth and power by ensuring constant hatred and fighting among members of the party of the poor.
In today’s second reading, St. Paul in describing Jesus as a perfect shepherd says: “For He is our peace, who has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility…” Ephesians 2:14. Why do people steal public funds? Simply because they do not even believe in our oneness as a people. They are thinking only about themselves and their immediate family not knowing that, in the long run, they cannot escape the sufferings their actions attract upon the entire nation.
A good shepherd works for the good of all rather than separate few. A good shepherd does not apply selective justice; operation python dance in one part and operation surrender your lands in another part! As Jeremiah pointed out in our first reading, God will appoint good shepherds who gather the flock, bring them to the fold and not even one of them shall be missing.
*Lesson Three: The Good Shepherd Feeds the Flock.*
In our Gospel passage, we are told that having returned from the mission of evangelization, the disciples got so busy attending to the large crowds, “many were coming and going and they had no leisure even to eat.” Mark 6:31. A good shepherd as God talks about in the prophecy of Jeremiah is one who “will care over the people.” The good shepherd is that “faithful and wise servant, whom his master has set over his household, to give them (the people) their food at the proper time.” Matthew 24:45.
Jesus called himself the Good Shepherd because of two special qualities he had; sacrifice for the sheep and knowledge of the sheep. In John 10:11, Jesus says: “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.” And in verse 14, Jesus added: “I am the good shepherd; I know my own and my own know me.” As a shepherd, do I even know the names and the life situation of my flock? Am I willing to sacrifice for the good of my sheep or am I only concerned about my salaries and allowances?
Jesus could see that his disciples were really tired and hungry. He wanted them to go to a quiet place so they could be by themselves to rest. But what happened, the people ran ahead of them on foot to the so-called lonely place they were going. Ordinarily, Jesus would have been justified to send them away for “disturbing his quiet time” but instead, Jesus had compassion on them and sat down to feed them with real food – the word of God. A good shepherd is always compassionate. He feels the pains of his people, he does not cut himself away from the ordinary citizen, he knows their plights and is ever available to use all the resources in his power for their good.
*In conclusion, The Lord is our Shepherd.*
Our Responsorial Psalm today sums up all the qualities of a Good Shepherd and beautifully makes us realize the truth that God alone deserves our complete trust in terms of leadership. Dear friends, it is not enough that we sing Psalm 23 in praise of God our shepherd. Let us be to others what God, the Good Shepherd is to us. As shepherds, let this psalm become our pledge, our oath of office, our vision and mission for all those under our charge. Let us read Psalm 23 like this:
I am a shepherd; my flock will lack nothing,
Fresh and Green are the pastures where I will give them repose,
Near restful waters, I will lead my people, I will revive their soul.
I will guide them along the right path,
Even though they walk through the valley of death, I will be with them,
My hand shall comfort them.
I will prepare a table for my constituents in the sight of their foes,
I will anoint their heads with oil.
My goodness and mercy shall extend to them
And under my care, they shall dwell securely with a length of days.
If every leader in this country can say this psalm, this country will become a paradise. But the only way that will happen is if every one of us listening to this would begin to live by it in our own little spheres of influence.
Let us Pray: Lord Jesus, forgive my failures in being such a bad shepherd and make me become a good one from this day onwards. Amen.
*Happy Sunday. Be Happy. Live Positive. Have Faith. It is well with you. God bless you. (Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time. Year B. Bible Study: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23:1-6, Ephesians 2:13-18, Mark 6:30-34).*