Memory of the Saints and the Prophets

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Reading of the Word of God

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You are a chosen race,
a royal priesthood, a holy nation,
a people acquired by God
to proclaim his marvellous works.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

Ezekiel 34,1-11

The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows, 'Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, "Shepherds, the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Are not shepherds meant to feed a flock? Yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock. You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones. You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and harshly. For lack of a shepherd they have been scattered, to become the prey of all the wild animals; they have been scattered. My flock is astray on every mountain and on every high hill; my flock has been scattered all over the world; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them. "Very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: As I live, I swear it -- declares the Lord Yahweh -- since my flock has been pillaged and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of every wild animal, since my shepherds have ceased to bother about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: The Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I am against the shepherds. I shall take my flock out of their charge and henceforth not allow them to feed my flock. And the shepherds will stop feeding themselves, because I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths to stop them from being food for them. "For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.

 

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

You will be holy,
because I am holy, thus says the Lord.

Alleluia, alleluia, alleluia

The image of the shepherd was a very common one in Palestine at that time. It is often used in the Bible to describe the responsibility of those who are charged with leading and governing, not only in a religious context, but even within society. The prophet uses strong language against them, accusing these shepherds of not taking care of their flock, but instead taking care of their personal interests: "Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves!" Should not shepherds feed the sheep?" This question is asked of us, as well. In fact, we are all shepherds in some way, responsible for other people, starting, as the prophet emphasizes, with "the weak...the injured...the strayed...[and] the lost." How many women and men are weak, injured, sick, or lost! We are often caught up in ourselves, we feel like we are victims of an unjust world, forgetting there are many others who are suffering much more than we are. But if we, who are disciples of Jesus, do not take care of our sisters and brothers who are weak, poor, and abandoned, who will? In the tenth chapter of John's Gospel, Jesus presents himself as the good shepherd who knows his sheep, calls them by name, takes them on his shoulders, takes care of them and heals them. Jesus will make a clear distinction between the shepherd and the hired hand. Either we are shepherds and we live caring for others, starting for the poor and the weak, or we are hired hands, who seek their own interest. We cannot escape the question: are we good shepherds? The shepherd lives for his flock and takes care especially of the wounded and scattered sheep in order to create unity and harmony. And the Lord will ask us to account for them, as happens in the last judgment, according to that most beautiful passage, Matthew 25. All, believers and not, will be judged by the love for the poor, for the wounded of life, the excluded and the last ones.