Daily Homily: I Will Save My Sheep

Wednesday of the 20th Week in Ordinary Time, Year Two

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Ezekiel 34:1-11
Psalm 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6
Matthew 20:1-16

After reading in Ezekiel about God’s judgment of Israel and the nations, we now begin Ezekiel’s promise of salvation. This promise centers on four images that we will contemplate the rest of this liturgical week: today, the shepherd and the sheep (34:1-31); Thursday, the new heard and mind (36:16-38); Friday, the raising of the dead to life (37:1-28); Saturday, the new Temple and the new Land (40:1-48:35) (see M. Duggan, The Consuming Fire, Ignatius Press 312).

Both Moses and David were shepherds when they were called by God to lead his people. As the servant of God, Moses led the people out of Egypt and through the desert for forty years to the promised land. He provided water, bread and quail for the people. He transmitted God’s law to them and was the mediator of the covenants of Sinai and Moab. As King of Israel and as God’s servant, David led the people to victory and established Jerusalem as his capital. He brought the ark of the Covenant to Jerusalem and prepared everything for the temple his son would build.

Ezekiel today denounces the corruption and infidelity of Israel’s kings. In fact only two were good kings: Hezekiah and Josiah. The rest either went from being good to committing evil or were evil in almost everything they did. Instead of feeding God’s flock, they fed themselves. They were negligent, not strengthening the weak, not healing the sick, not tending to the wounded, not bringing back the stray, not seeking out the lost. Instead of ruling and governing with gentleness and mercy, they ruled with force and harshness.

Because of this, God declares that he will shepherd the people. He himself will feed them, he will strengthen them, heal them, tend to their wounds, seek them out and bring them back to the fold. After declaring that he will save his flock and judge them, God promises to set up one shepherd over his flock. This one shepherd will be a descendant of David, his servant. This shepherd will feed God’s flock and be prince among them. A covenant of peace will be established. The yoke of slavery will be broken and the people will no longer be consumed with hunger and no longer suffer. On that day, «they shall know that I, the Lord their God, am with them, and that they, the house of Israel, are my people, says the Lord God. And you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God, says the Lord God» (34:30-31).

In the Gospel, we learn that God wants us to share in building up the Kingdom of God. All Christians share in Christ’ kingly office through their baptism. We have been given the gift of royal freedom so that we may overcome the reign of sin within us. Together we work to establish justice in society; with the pastors of the Church, we cooperate through different ministries in building up the life of the Church (CCC, 908-912).

One of the ways to read today’s Gospel passage is to see how some respond to God’s at an early age and they spend their entire life working in God’s vineyard. Others respond later in life and dedicate themselves to the service of God’s kingdom. Christ does not stop calling. He doesn’t give up. He patiently seeks out his sheep, respects their freedom and welcomes them when they respond. God knows the history of each person, he knows their talents and strengths as well as their weaknesses and tendencies. He is free to reward us as he sees fit, knowing that he is gracious and merciful, abounding in generosity.

Readers may contact Father Jason Mitchell at mitchelljason2011@gmail.com.

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Jason Mitchell

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