4th Sunday of Easter Good Shepherd Sunday April 25, 2010
Don’t Cover Your Donkey!
A farmer had a hard-working donkey for many years. But one day the animal fell into a dry but deep well. It cried pitifully for hours, but the farmer did not know what to do. Finally, he decided the well was already dry and needed to be covered up anyway and the animal was old. He might just as well bury the donkey. He called his neighbors to help him. They all began to shovel dirt into the well. The donkey realized what was happening and cried horribly. Then, he quieted down. Curious about the silence of the animal, the farmer looked down the well. He was astonished at what he saw. With each shovel of dirt that hit his back, the donkey would shake it off and take a step up.
As they continued to shovel dirt into the well, the animal would shake it off and take a step up. Pretty soon, everyone was surprised when the donkey stepped up over the edge of the well, and happily walked away! Later, the donkey came back, and bit the farmer who had tried to bury him.
There are two lessons from this story. If we are the donkey: Let’s shake off the dirt thrown at us, and step up to the challenge. But if we are the farmer, remember this: When you try to cover your ass, it always comes back to bite you.
The crisis in the world today is basically a crisis in leadership. It is this crisis that brought us all these problems in society – economic crisis, political unrest, global terrorism, wars, social decay, sexual abuses and scandals and many others. Many of our leaders – whether in government, in the church, in schools, in civil society, or even in families – have let us down.
Just as there are the so-called “good weather” friends, there are also the “good weather” leaders. They are leaders only when the going is good, easy and beneficial to them. They can rightly be called “plastic” leaders – not genuine leaders. When the going gets hot, they change in form and appearance – like plastic that cannot endure the heat. In other words, their main concern is with their own welfare, with “saving their faces” and “covering their donkeys”, than with the welfare of the people they are supposed to serve. Their motto is the four P’s – they work for power, for pay, for pleasure and for pride or prestige.
In the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel, God has harsh words towards such shepherds. “Thus says the Lord God: Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with the wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. 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. So they were scattered, because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals. My sheep were scattered, they wandered over all the mountains and on every high hill; my sheep were scattered over all the face of the earth, with no one to search or seek for them” (Ezekiel 34:2-6).
Fortunately, there is always hope. God promised his people that He Himself was going to be their shepherd, their good shepherd (Ezekiel 34:15-16). This promise was fulfilled in Jesus. This Sunday is Good Shepherd Sunday. Jesus declared himself to be the Good Shepherd who has come “that they may have life, and have it abundantly” (John 10:10). Being the good shepherd, he leads his flock to green pastures. He patiently searches out the lost sheep, and when he finds it, he carries it on his shoulders in jubilation. He is always at the service of his flock, ready to protect them from wolves. And if necessary, he will lay down his life for his sheep. And we are so fortunate, for as we sang in Psalm 100, “We are his people, the sheep of his flock. Alleluia!”
In the example of the Good Shepherd, it is very clear that legitimate authority, in Church and in society, comes from God, and its main purpose is for service to others. It should be exercised devoid of any selfish motivations and ambitions, but always bearing in mind the true welfare of the people. Indeed, what the world needs now are true shepherds after the likeness of Jesus, the Good Shepherd.
This Sunday, let us pray for our shepherds in the Church – the Pope, the bishops and all priests. During this Year for Priests, let us pray that the Lord will help them become more faithful and effective in their ministry. We pray that they use their authority properly to serve and care for God’s people. In a very special way, let us never forget to pray for the many victims of the shameful behavior and crimes of some unfaithful shepherds in the Church. May Jesus, the Good Shepherd, heal their wounds and ease their pain as they struggle to rebuild their lives. This Sunday is also the World Day of Prayer for Vocations. Let us pray that more young people will answer the call to the priesthood and religious life so that there will be enough true shepherds to care for His flock.
Let us also remember to pray for our leaders in government that they may be imbued with sincere humility and true compassion for the people they vowed to serve. But more importantly, let us pray for one another. In our baptism, we shared in the kingship of Christ – a kingship of service. In other words, we are kings or servants. Let us strive always to be servants and shepherds to one another. Imagine a world where people do not expect to be served but are all eager to serve and care for one another. That would be a wonderful experience of heaven on earth.
Fr. Mike Lagrimas
St. Teresa Church
New York, NY 10002