Who is the good shepherd?

It will be possible to recognize the good shepherd in the measure in which he permits or does not permit that among men there is no precise guidance towards the Truth; and, on the other hand, to distinguish the action of the bad shepherd, who breaks the unity of the doctrine with dubious teachings, which admit also dubious interpretations.

Newsdesk (July 18, 2021 10:26, Gaudium Press) Throughout history, the facts seem to demonstrate, and even show, that every man needs to be guided by another who is for him a representation of God himself, showing him the ways and directions to follow in life. In the Old Testament, the Holy Scriptures present us with numerous facts that illustrate this dependence. In the book of Genesis we find that Noah, “a just and perfect man among men of his generation” (Gen 6:9), was elected by God to guide and announce to corrupt humanity that, if it did not change its behavior, it would be devastated by the flood; similarly, in the book of Exodus, we read that Moses, “who lived face to face with the Lord as a man speaks to his friend” (Cf. (Cf. Ex 33:11), was elected by the Lord to save the people of Israel from slavery to the Egyptians.

Now, this dependence on a guide obviously demands that man makes a judgment about his pastors, in order to discern clearly whether they will lead him to the right goals.

In the first book of Maccabees, we see how Mattathias, faced with the desolation in which Israel found itself, gathered together a handful of faithful men who elected him as head of the people, in order to establish peace and order in the holy land. (Cf. 1 Mk 2:1-20).

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However, based on what criteria should we analyze the pastors to see if they really exercise their role as teacher and guide of God’s people with sanctity and effectiveness?

Between shepherd and pastor

In the Gospel, Our Lord offers us some elements. First, the Evangelist notes that the Divine Master says to the crowd: “Come alone to a deserted place” (Mk 6:31). He thus means that the Good Shepherd, first of all, is the one who knows how to recollect himself and have a deep inner life and great virtue. He is also the one whose relationship with God is serious and deep, and whose words and deeds are, as a consequence, the fruit of recollection, and not of his temperamental spontaneity and impulsiveness.

Furthermore St. Mark states that: “many saw the apostles depart, and recognized that it was they” (Cf. Mk 6:33). God gives to every baptized person a certain “instinct”, by which one can recognize and follow the good shepherds. By means of this intuition, man can discern their intention to guide or not to guide towards the good, towards the ends established by God. Thus, when doubts begin to arise about whether the shepherd leads for the good, and when these doubts persist on the basis of indisputable facts or impressions, one must be attentive…

A final point that can help us discern the good shepherd is contained in the Gospel passage that states: “Jesus saw a great crowd and had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). Now, since every teacher and guide of souls has the obligation to be a reflection of the Divine Master and Good Shepherd, he must have compassion on his sheep when he perceives that they are without clear guidance, offering him the means to continue on the path of goodness and virtue. This is what Our Lord did. When He saw that the crowd was aimless, He took pity on them and showed them the true way.

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Being “aimless” for today’s man is often the lack of enlightenment of the doctrine. Unfortunately, it often happens that a great variety of ideas and doctrines are disseminated by society without knowing which ones are truly in accordance with the teaching of the Divine Redeemer.

When the Evangelist says that the multitude went about like sheep without a shepherd (Cf. Mk 6:34), he shows that they lacked a unity of doctrine and thought; and, since men need to know the Truth, and to know, according to the Truth, what to believe and how to act, it was necessary that the Man-God should offer them a unity of doctrine. This is well stated by St. Paul in the second reading: “out of what was divided he made unity” (Eph 2:14).

Guide according to the truth

Those, then, who are called to lead and guide souls must follow the example of Our Lord, they must always be concerned to maintain that unity in true Catholic doctrine; for only thus will they be unfailingly faithful to Him who is the Way, the Truth and the Life (Jn 14:6).

In this way, it will be possible to recognize the good shepherd in the measure in which he allows or does not allow that among men there is no precise orientation in relation to the truth; and, on the other hand, to distinguish the action of the bad shepherd, who breaks the unity of doctrine with dubious teachings, which admit also dubious interpretations. Jeremiah expresses this very well in the first reading: “Woe to the shepherds who let the flock of my pasture be lost and scattered! (Jer 23:1).

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Today’s liturgy, therefore, invites us not only to examine ourselves to what extent we fulfill a role of guiding others to the path of goodness, but also to be attentive to those who should guide us to the fulfillment of divine designs.

Let us follow the good shepherds; let us not be led, eventually, by the bad ones, and let us pray for all of them so that they may be what God wants from each one: some in perseverance, others in urgent conversion.

By Guilherme Maia

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