16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B - 19th July 2015

Good Shepherds

The readings to day are directed more to the Shepherds than to the sheep.

Jeremiah complains about the religious and political leaders of his time. They failed to fulfil their responsibility to guide and protect the people. He compares them to shepherds who neglect their sheep and leave them vulnerable to thieves and wild animals. Jesus criticizes the religious leaders of his time for selling out their people. He says they have let the people become sheep without a shepherd.

Political leaders are always lured by and often yield to the temptation to practice corruption. In this day, it's rare to go a week without hearing or reading about some civic officials who have misused their office and betrayed the people's trust.

The misdeeds of civil authority surprise no one. But religion is supposed to be different. In recent years the church has been deeply wounded because the shepherds of the flock-priests and bishops-have failed to protect the people, especially the young.

Priests misused their position and betrayed the people's trust out of selfishness and weakness. Bishops misused their authority out of misguided thinking about protecting the church's image and reputation. In trying to save the church from harm, they only made things worse.

The power of evil has shaken our church, yet we must trust that Christ is still with us. Before God we priests must acknowledge our sinfulness, repent of them and make a firm commitment that this will not happen again. Thankfully the Catholic Church in England has drawn up Safeguarding procedures to protect children and vulnerable adults in the future. These must be fully adhered to and when it comes to children we must always err on the side of safety.

We should never forget the victims and although we can never right the wrong done to them, we must pray for them and do all we can to bring healing and love to them.

When addressing this sad issue, St John Paul II cited the words of St. Paul that 'where sin increased, grace overflowed all the more'. With faith in Christ's presence in His Church let us be confident that "we will not be conquered by evil but overcome evil with good."

Let us pray that our Priests and Bishops seek to be Christ-like as they lead the flock and that they, like Christ, know that they are called to serve and not to be served.

Fr. Kevin O'Shea, C.M.