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Get ready for God’s idea of being shepherd
It sure sounds crazy to me
Peter wasn’t the only one to abandon Jesus at his crucifixion.
"This night all of you will have your faith in me shaken, for it is written: I will strike the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock will be dispersed . . .”
Peter wasn’t the only one to object to Jesus’ insinuation that their shaken faith would scatter them apart.
Peter said to him, "Even though I should have to die with you, I will not deny you." And all the disciples spoke likewise.
When the soldiers, at Judas’ leading, took hold of Jesus, the abandonment began. Jesus had evaded verbal rebukes, capture, and even stoning, many times during his ministry. The disciples weren’t practiced in defending Jesus simply because of his overwhelming ability to diffuse, deflect, and defend himself.
Not this time.
“But all this has come to pass that the writings of the prophets may be fulfilled." Then all the disciples left him and fled.
Commentators and homilists often use the disciples’ cowardice as a wake-up call to our defense of Jesus in the modern era. Beneath the obvious warnings of our abandonment of Christ is the blatant reality that Jesus was a shepherd, not a marshal at arms. He didn’t recruit his followers to be warriors of the historical sort—tight-fisted brutes capable of demolishing enemies.
He goes after those who leave his flock. All of them. He entrusts us with caring for those of us who stay. Remarkably, he is with us in both Spirit and body (the Eucharist).
This is still the case today. Our Risen Shepherd is continually stricken by wolves who insist he is dead and gone. Man cannot become God, we are told. Yes, that’s true. God became man, we argue, which quickly stands as an even more laughable position. The wolves chew us to bits, not knowing that our souls are protected.
Those among us, both men and women, who are called to be shepherds and servants in Jesus’ name, have been reduced to unimaginable lows in just a few decades. Truth has been torn to shreds. Religious orders are suspect. Priests are chastised. Nuns are unnecessary. The laity, consequently, is abandoning the faith in droves.
The social structure of power and truth operates differently than the divine structure of the Kingdom being built in our midst. The servants of the faith have minimal celebrity and fame. Those who climb to great heights of power in the name of faith seem to be quickly compromised and eventually reduced to fools or charlatans. Both the honest and dishonest suffer these trials. It’s also scriptural.
God does not abandon those who have fled. He recruits us, sometimes, to be his emissaries. We leave the flock and do what he asks. We’re not his brigades, though. Even brutal language isn’t called for. We’re given only the tools of love, example, prayer, trust, and faith. For those of us well-trained in anger and retort, it’s incredibly frustrating.
The manner of how our faith works in this realm opposes everything supposedly logical. We are not going to be rewarded here. We’ll look the fools. And worse, we get so used to our formidable God working miracles in our lives (just like Peter and the disciples) that when God allows the worst to happen—which almost everyone can attest will take place—we question God’s motives. We hide and deny. We, too, disperse. Our faith can be challenged at any time, and our courage turns into disappointment.
God then has to come after us!
There are those certain few who are examples, though. Not of warlike fervor but a holiness shown by their trust in God. The apostles all grew into those kinds of shepherds. Clever, fruitful, and ready for God’s use of them. I’m sure we’ve all met people like that.
Joan of Arc did not wield a sword. Ignatius of Loyola left his armor behind. St. Teresa of Calcutta didn’t even rail at the UN when asked to speak. She offered to take any babies that people didn’t want.
Those were the successful ones. Yet, they were martyred, opposed, and died without financial legacies. The shepherds will fall, and more will be called to nurture and feed the flock. That’s God’s promise. Faithful examples inspire those that God then picks to continue the work. It’s a weird pattern, but it’s been repeated for two eons.
Like the disciples, we must regather ourselves. We must pray in earnest together. We’re not going to overcome until Jesus comes back. We’re not supposed to wipe out the enemy, either. That’s the angels’ job, and we won’t be privy to their missions until all is done.
It is disconcerting. Uncommon in how we think things should be done. More than uncommon. It’s untenable in our social manners and how we learn to face evil.
That’s because we need only face God instead. He stood in the face of evil by dying to end its power. That’s what we’ll all end up doing if we look to God.
It seems like a crazy way to do things.
OK. Crazy it is, then.