This post is about the challenging aspects of community. I read yesterday’s First Reading from Ezekiel with some sadness. At the funeral earlier that day, I had two conversations with people who had been let down by community, and in particular by the shepherd of the community. My own personal struggle with the pastor had nearly broken me. I almost walked away a number of times but the community held me there. The cost of remaining was dear. I am still easily reminded how fragile I am in this regard so as I listened to these two folks share their pain, I recognized their angst and anger.
God does not hold back in Ezekiel. Should not shepherds feed the sheep? ….You have not strengthen the weak you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, and you have not sought the lost….So they were scattered…my sheep were scattered…with no one to search or seek for them. God says that God will search for such sheep and rescue them. Harsh words for shepherds of the flock. Not all of us are given such grave responsibilities in our work but clearly, when it comes to our faith, God is not happy when the flock is scattered.
Today’s First Reading continues a few chapters later and God is offering to put a new heart and spirit within us so that we may follow the Holy Laws given us. I think both the shepherd and the sheep need renewal once the sheep nearly starve to death. I have returned to several conversations that I have had over the years since the incidents have happened. This is not the first church I have seen the flock scattered at–nor does it happen only in the Catholic Church. I have seen it across denominations. I also have an American female friend who is angry that so many priests in the USA have gotten away with the sexual abuse committed and that justice was never served. I do wonder who answers to God about those who have left the Church because of shepherds who have not done the work that they have been ordained to do and trusted to carry out. I do not think most are bad people; I believe, that like the sheep, they are wounded and act out of their brokenness. We have a long way to go in community. We do many elements of worshiping together well. We still have some lessons to learn about how to deal with what goes wrong. In the meantime, I offer prayers for all those who remain scattered. I hope their anger, weariness, or pain can be healed and that God will massage their hearts until they are renewed. I would love to see them back in the pasture again. In this year of mercy, the flock may need to extend the shepherd some grace. I pray for them too.
Have you ever experienced being scattered?
How much mercy have you shown towards the one that scattered the flock?
Shepherd of Life, you look upon your flock with love and mercy. Keep us from harm. Give us new hearts and spirits when they have been broken. Heal us and lead us to restful pastures. Amen.