Listen to the Shepherd's Voice

Jeremiah R. Grosse
November 23, 2008
Reproduced with Permission

Our first reading from the Prophet Ezekiel makes reference to one of the most beloved images of God, namely God as Shepherd. In the section of this chapter of the Book of Ezekiel which precedes this reading, the prophet warns the leaders of the people, who serve as shepherds for the nation, that God will remove His sheep from their charge because they allowed the sheep to become prey to the wild animals and remain unfed while the leaders fed themselves.

"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." This is God's condemnation of these kings who would not shepherd the flock according to God's plan.

After being ruled by judges for many years, the Jewish people wanted to be just like their neighbors and have a king rule over them. Even though God and was not in favor of the idea He allowed them to have a king. He appointed Saul, of the tribe of Benjamin, the smallest of all twelve tribes, and had him anointed. Even though Saul is head and shoulders above everyone else both physically and ethically he reigns for only two years; because he failed to follow God's directive regarding the nation of Amalek.

Amalek is the ultimate enemy of the Jewish people in history. This is the people that symbolize evil, and there is a commandment in the Bible to wipe them off the face of the earth, because their pathological hatred for Jews is so great, if they have a chance they will wipe the Jews off the face of the earth.

Amalek's major ambition is to rid the world of the Jews and their moral influence and return the planet to idolatry, paganism, and barbarism.

Since this is a cosmic war between good and evil which cannot be settled with treaties, God commands the Jews to destroy Amalek -- the entire nation, down to the last cow.

Saul has the opportunity to do so. He waged war against Amalek as commanded and wins, but when it comes to fulfilling the decree he falters-some of the Amalekites are left alive. At the behest of the people the cows are spared, and worse -- through Saul's misplaced mercy Agag, the king of the Amalekites, is spared also.

As a result of Saul's actions, the Prophet Samuel says, "Though you may be small in your own eyes, you are the head of the tribes of Israel; and God anointed you to be king over Israel...Why did you not obey the voice of God?... I shall not return to you for you have rejected the word of the Lord and the Lord has rejected you from being King over Israel."

Samuel turned to go and Saul grabbed the hem of his robe and it tore. Samuel said to him, "The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it your fellow who is better then you.'"

Many of us have had the experience of being rejected. A young man gathers up his courage and asks a woman out whom he has been attracted to for a while and she tells him, "Let's just be friends!" A young executive meets with her boss and is passed over for a promotion which she believes that she is both qualified for and entitled to. While none of these experiences are life-ending that does not mean that they are not painful. No one wants to experience rejection. Who among us wants to hear that he or she is not good enough or smart enough?

God gave the leaders a chance to perform according to His expectations, but since they either could not or would not, God tells the people that He Himself will pasture the sheep. God will give the sheep rest, seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the injured, heal the sick, and heal the sick. However, the sleek and the strong He will destroy.

There is an ancient Jewish tradition that this morning's responsorial psalm was written and sung by King David following the death of his first child. King David provides us with a wonderful image of how we will are sustained by God. God leads us into green pastures and gives us repose. He leads us beside restful waters and refreshes our souls.

One of the greatest signs of God's presence is the Holy Eucharist. Our Lord gave us his own body and blood as true food and true drink to help us on the journey to his Kingdom. At the Eucharistic table, we come to share in the divinity of Christ, who humbled Himself to share in our humanity. On this Solemnity of Christ the King, we give thanks and praise to God who offered his life on the altar of the cross and redeemed the human race by this one perfect sacrifice of peace. As king, Jesus Christ claims dominion over all creation so that He may present to God the Father an eternal and universal kingdom of truth, life, holiness, grace, justice, love and peace. Jesus Christ, the head of the body, the Church, the firstborn of all the dead, the very image of the invisible God is present among us right at this moment.

This is the Good News of our salvation. Psalm 23 assures us that only goodness and kindness shall follow us all the days of our lives and we shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. As ambassadors of Christ it is our responsibility to bring this message of hope to all those we come in contact with.