Ezekiel 34: 1-11
The word of the LORD came to me: Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel: prophesy, and say to them—to the shepherds: Thus says the Lord GOD: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them.
So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them.
Therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: As I live, says the Lord GOD, because my sheep have become a prey, and my sheep have become food for all the wild animals, since there was no shepherd; and because my shepherds have not searched for my sheep, but the shepherds have fed themselves, and have not fed my sheep; therefore, you shepherds, hear the word of the LORD: Thus says the Lord GOD, I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves.
I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them. For thus says the Lord GOD: I myself will search for my sheep, and will seek them out.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved (http://www.usccb.org/bible/approved-translations)
Today’s reading from Ezekiel forms part of the background of the shepherd imagery applied to Jesus in the New Testament. Jesus surpassed the imperfect shepherds who have ruled in the past with more concern for their personal advancement than the good of the people that have placed under them.
One point to consider in today’s reading concerns the activity of the good shepherd. Not only does he shepherd the “good sheep,” the ones who dutifully occupy the fold. He even ventures out to seek those who have strayed and find themselves lost and wandering. All of us have been given some small amount of authority in life, whether that be in family, business, or church affairs. We all know what it is like to have one person under our charge who is wandering away. The fallen human tendency toward writing off those who don’t follow our lead can be strong. Yet, the scriptures show us an image of God who is not content with allowing the lost to suffer our disregard. The example of the Good Shepherd leads us out into the paths of the lost to bind their wounds and bring them back. This “love in action” is a hallmark of Christian discipleship.
—Fr. Kevin Dyer, S.J.
Lord, we take comfort in knowing that our Good Shepherd is ever vigilant for our well-being and the well-being of our families. It is contrary to your nature not to search for us. We will remember that you love our children, our spouse, our mom and dad, our grandkids, our best friend and cherished pets– even more than we do. Lord, we will persist in our prayers just as you persist in your search for us.
—The Jesuit Prayer Team