Friday, June 11, 2010

God Proves His Love For Us In That While We Were Still Sinners, Christ Died For Us.

Solemnity of Most Sacred Heart of Jesus
Reading I
Ezechiel 34:11-16
Thus says the Lord GOD:
I myself will look after and tend my sheep.
As a shepherd tends his flock
when he finds himself among his scattered sheep,
so will I tend my sheep.
I will rescue them
from every place where they were scattered
when it was cloudy and dark.
I will lead them out from among the peoples
and gather them from the foreign lands;
I will bring them back to their own country
and pasture them upon the mountains of Israel
in the land's ravines and all its inhabited places.
In good pastures will I pasture them,
and on the mountain heights of Israel
shall be their grazing ground.
There they shall lie down on good grazing ground,
and in rich pastures shall they be pastured
on the mountains of Israel.
I myself will pasture my sheep;
I myself will give them rest, says the Lord GOD.
The lost I will seek out,
the strayed I will bring back,
the injured I will bind up,
the sick I will heal,
but the sleek and the strong I will destroy,
shepherding them rightly.
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Psalm 23
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name's sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
with your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
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Reading II
Romans 5:5b-11
Brothers and sisters:
The love of God has been poured out into our hearts
through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.
For Christ, while we were still helpless,
died at the appointed time for the ungodly.
Indeed, only with difficulty does one die for a just person,
though perhaps for a good person
one might even find courage to die.
But God proves his love for us
in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.
How much more then, since we are now justified by his blood,
will we be saved through him from the wrath.
Indeed, if, while we were enemies,
we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son,
how much more, once reconciled,
will we be saved by his life.
Not only that,
but we also boast of God through our Lord Jesus Christ,
through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Luke 15:3-7
Jesus addressed this parable to the Pharisees and scribes:
"What man among you having a hundred sheep
and losing one of them
would not leave the ninety-nine in the desert
and go after the lost one until he finds it?
And when he does find it,
he sets it on his shoulders with great joy
and, upon his arrival home,
he calls together his friends and neighbors
and says to them,
'Rejoice with me because I have found my lost sheep.'
I tell you, in just the same way
there will be more joy in heaven over one sinner who repents
than over ninety-nine righteous people
who have no need of repentance."
Today we celebrate the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. The heart of Jesus is a symbol for the great love Jesus has for us. It seems fitting on this day that we read passages of Scripture about the Good Shepherd.

Within the nation of Israel the image of the shepherd with his flock became a way of thinking about leaders of people, especially priests and kings. As the shepherd protected and cared for his flock, the leaders of the people were to protect and care for God’s flock. But shepherds were not always good to their sheep.

The prophet Ezekiel paints a picture of a flock scattered throughout the world. The shepherds had failed the people. Thus, God declares that he himself will be their shepherd. Ezekiel uses the following action terms to describe God’s love for his people: look after, tend, rescue, lead, gather, bring back, and pasture. When the sheep are scattered, it is cloudy and dark, the ravines are treacherous and the ground is not fit for grazing, God will find them rich pasture and good grazing ground. He will give rest to the weary, seek out the lost, bring back the strays, bind up the injured, heal the sick, but destroy the sleek and the strong.

The 23rd Psalm includes many of these same ideas except that the perspective is from one of the sheep. If the Lord is my shepherd, what could I possibly lack? The Shepherd gives us rest, repose, refreshment for our souls. He guides and protects us. Our lives overflow with his goodness. God’s protection calms us, gives us courage, and helps us to have hope. I lack nothing now or in the future, come what may.

The Gospel reading is the story of the shepherd who leaves the ninety-nine to find the lost sheep. What a beautiful picture! The shepherd searches for the lost until he finds it, puts it on his shoulders with great joy, carries it home, and then throws a party for his friends and neighbors. Do I really feel that way about the people in our world who seem to have no moral compass, no hope for the future, no knowledge of the love God has for them, who can only be described as lost? When was the last time I rejoiced because the lost had been found? Do I care about the lost? Do I believe that anybody actually is lost, that anyone might be a sinner who needs to repent? Could this partially explain the lack of joy that we sometimes experience as disciples of Jesus? Perhaps it is a thing of the past to believe that people are lost and need to repent. If, in fact, people are lost, won’t the love of God within us cause us to seek them even as the Good Shepherd sought us?

If this sounds arrogant, then perhaps a good dose of the second reading is the antidote. Christ died for the helpless, the ungodly, sinners, his enemies. We have been all of that and worse but he died for us anyway. He demonstrated his love with his blood. What is produced in the heart of a person who has been reconciled with God in this way? It is a heart filled with the love of Jesus. The love of the Most Sacred Heart is poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit. How else could we possibly remain humble before the Shepherd who has saved us and yet boldly seek to save those of his sheep who are still lost?
George Butterfield
Daily Reflections
Creighton University Online Ministries


Sarah in the tent said...

'but the sleek and the strong I will destroy'

It's strange. Most English translations seem to have it in for the sleek and the strong, but the Douai Rheims version talks about 'preserving' them (rather than destroying them) and the New Jerusalem version translates it as 'I shall watch over the fat and healthy'.

How on earth can the translations differ so widely?

We have two guinea pigs. One is fat and the other thin. We try all sorts of different tricks to get the thin one to eat more and the fat one to eat less - but we would never dream of 'destroying' little fattie!

Fr. John L. Sullivan said...

Sarah, your comment prompted me to search Ezekiel 34:16 in all of the translations available in Bible Gateway. It is just as you said: every version except Douay-Rheims speaks of destroying the fat and the healthy.

On the other hand, several of the translations mention that there is an alternate form of verse 16, that reads, "I shall keep a close eye on the fat and the healthy". which prompts me to conclude that the LORD's intention is their conversion, not their destruction.