I always cringe everytime I see or hear leaders in the country, in a parliamentary session just throwing mud at each other. It always leaves me discomfort and sometimes even upset when I can sense that these leaders whom the general public voted for the office, keep their focus more on self-preservation rather than on the immediate needs of the people they governed. There are people dying out there, there are people being discriminated against, there are people being bullied, etc., but they would want to keep their reputation impeccable first rather than doing something about the many social concerns that need special care and consideration. Yes, self-preservation is necessary, in fact very important. This is why we have the common cliché ‘survival of the fittest.’ But for God’s sake, leaders are made so because of the people they are to lead, so in a way by assuming the responsibility of being a leader, they or we should know and understand how to make a balance out of who we are, what we need and what we are to do.
Jesus in our gospel today tells us a how to balance our lives amidst the many things and concerns we may have. Last week, he sent his apostles in two’s for a mission, now they come back bringing with them all the beautiful experiences they have had while doing the mission. They seem to be very excited to report back to Jesus about everything, More so, people couldn’t stop coming to them. So Jesus urged the apostles to go and have a rest in an isolated place, to do a retreat in a way. Off they went. But the people followed them , because they could guess where they were heading to. Jesus allowed his disciples to rest while he taught the people who followed them. When he saw them, he was moved with pity and compassion because they are like sheep without shepherd. As a shepherd, he couldn’t turn them away. He would have wanted to have a quiet time with his apostles, but because of the immediate need of the people, he had to forego his own whims and desire. The feeling of pity and the compassion that Jesus felt towards the people is much more than just a mere human feeling or emotion. He pities them not because of the sight of their misery and misfortune but because it arouses such a deep feeling in Jesus that impels him to do everything possible to relieve the sufferers by a total commitment of himself to them and to their needs. In this way Jesus is showing us an example of how to be a good leader. ‘There is nothing which provides better instruction for others unto piety and worship of God’, says the Council of Trent, ‘than the life and example of those who have dedicated themselves to the divine ministry.’
This is the kind of a Shepherd that God wishes to every appointed leader in the land- a leader who knows that he or she needs to go alone every now and then, and reflect on his or her life before God and on what she or he is doing, but also at the same time not forgetting the needs of the people whom he or she is sent to. A shepherd is one who knows the balance between self-preservation and ministry.
This is in contrast with what a slack shepherd is as our First Reading today tells us. The Prophet Jeremiah tells us that a shepherd who allows the flock to be destroyed and scattered is repugnant for the Lord. The shepherd who just preserves him/ herself is one who just allowed the sheep to go wandering and have not taken care of them. And we know there are leaders like this today in our world. We have leaders who couldn’t support the general move to assist a certain country in violence and war, maybe because of their connection or debt of gratitude to the reigning tyrant. We have leaders who couldn’t make one common solution to a prevailing problem of people smuggling. We have leaders who are still engrossed with the idea of self-preservation over leadership, by stealing the people’s money in corruption, lying and overpricing projects, etc.
Knowing this, we need not just a shepherd, but a good one. And there is only one Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ. We need him more than ever, because he alone can break the barrier between peace and war, between selfishness and generosity, between love and hatred. Let’s allow Him to work in us and through us. We are his hands and feet now, we are his mouth and ears now, we are his body, so let’s fulfil our particular mission in the flock of God for the whole flock.
So as we continue our celebration of the Eucharist today, let this be our prayer: that the Spirit of Jesus Christ, our Good Shepherd would come and fill those who are appointed leaders in our land, so that we may be faithful to what we are called for and to whom we are called to serve. Amen.