This weekend, the first reading comes from the book of Jeremiah. It begins with, “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.” After this scary pronouncement and later in the passage, the prophet proceeded to declare God’s intention to gather the remnant of his flock and appoint shepherds for them.
Jeremiah, one of the Old Testament Bible’s major prophets, lived in a time in Israel when shepherds (priests and prophets) had authorities that transcend religious boundaries. While there were kings and judges, the shepherds were revered authority figures.
During Jeremiah’s time, there were so many challenges and problems. Many of these were social, political, and economic dilemmas, which were rooted in the high moral decadence of the Jewish culture of the time. Some of these problems include infidelity to God, corruption, abuses in the places of worship, idolatry, apostasies, and an increased number of false prophets. The society also faced some difficult challenges. The invasions from their neighboring nations in the north and the long-standing drought were among the more devastating challenges that ravaged the Jewish society during the time of Prophet Jeremiah.
While these problems and difficulties prevailed, the people suffered political instability, economic stagnation, insecurity, and countless social crises. God saw all these and became embittered. His anger was on the shepherds, leaders of the people, who have abandoned the ways of God and preached the ways of men. These leaders engaged in false prophecies, idolatries, false circumcisions, and corrupt practices that destroyed the people’s faith and weakened their relationships with God.
The same problems that attracted the wrath of God upon the shepherds of the people during the time of Jeremiah seem to be present in our own culture today. Infidelity to God? In our times, we have men and women who parade themselves as Catholics but continue to support and enact laws that contradict the teachings of Christ. The abortion law, which directly contradicts the fifth commandment, is one example of this. Abuses in places of worship? The many bad liturgical practices, sexual and financial misconducts among some church officials in our times are abuses in places of worship.
False prophets? Ordained church ministers who agree with some of the teachings of the Church and disagree with others are no less false prophets. Idolatry? People who choose football games or other sporting, shopping, and business activities on Sunday mornings over going to Masses are no less idolatrous. They replace the worship of God with these activities to the detriment of their souls and the souls of the people they influence.
This week, let us pray for God to touch and transform the lives of our leaders (parents and civic leaders) and shepherds (priests and bishops). May they not lead us astray but to God, who is the source of all good things. Amen.