There is never a lack in the part of God even when men fail and are incompetent. He always takes the divine initiative to watch over and care for his own. He is not oblivious of the needs of His children or too tired to attend to them; this is obvious in the readings of today. The first reading expresses God condemnation and disappointment on leaders who do not care about their subordinates. Instead of them to guard and guide their inferior, they rather manipulate and exploit people to their own advantage. This is the reason they embezzle public funds instead of providing social amenities, blindfolded in the face of insecurity and allow innocent citizens die of hunger and starvation. Because they are less concerned, they don’t take the initiative of empowering anyone especially the youth, hence leadership and power moves in a circle. Just as the Lord disapprove the style of governess of the rulers of old who swim in the pool of corruption and vices, so the Lord is unhappy with the present-day leaders who pay deaf ear to the cry of the common man.
His affection towards his creatures spurred him to promise his people a righteous and upright king. This is a promise that the Lord will provide new leadership for his people a righteous Branch a morally upright leader. Only a person who has been hungry can really appreciate what it means to have food. Also, it takes a person who has suffered under corrupt leadership to really appreciate good leadership, morally upright leader who will be as attentive to the needs of the poor as of the rich and a leader who is concerned for the people as for his personal welfare. This new king and leader will enact God’s law that will promote just behavior; it will require witnesses to be honest and impartial (Exodus 23:1-3, 6-8); it will require special consideration for widows, orphans, and other vulnerable people (Deuteronomy 24:17). While Israel is always tempted to define its service to God by the performance of cultic duties (ritual sacrifice, Sabbath observance, etc.), he will remind them like the other prophets that justice is a basic duty of the faith community (Micah 6:8).
Thus, he will establish a new rule that truly defines God as the Good shepherd who is interested in his people. Saint Paul in the second reading says this new king (Jesus, the son of God) is the “peace between us, who has made us one, and broken down the dividing wall of hostility, … through the sacrifice of the cross and through it also reconciled man to God.” Therefore, he is a king who his conscious, aware and involved in the plight of the flock as X-rayed in the bloody sacrifice of the cross. By this singular act, he shows us that we are enveloped in love as members of his flock. The practical care of the promised shepherd is clear in the Gospel reading. When Jesus arrives at his resting place, a great crowd awaits him. Jesus and the disciples had reasons to be annoyed. They have not eaten and were in need of rest even before rowing the boat to this destination. We would expect tired, hungry men to respond with anger to this unexpected demand on their ebbing energy.
Instead of capitalizing on his selfish and greedy needs like our leaders (government official, those in public offices, ministers of the God, and administrators) of today, he was moved with compassion. The word translated “compassion,” esplanchnisthe, is the word for bowels, guts, and describes a sympathetic feeling that starts in the deepest regions of a person’s being. Unlike, some of us today who value and treasure our rest time, siesta, and personal space, Jesus sacrificed all these just because souls were involved. What sacrifices are you making for humanity in your different careers, vocations and profession? Are you the secretary or receptionist that is always hostile to visitors? Are you the boss or oga that transfers aggression on subordinate? Are you that professional that is so official and legalistic even with time? Are you that car owner that is aggressive and hostile to the Al-majiri children on traffic jams? We must learn how to accommodate and tolerate people like Jesus even when it is uncomfortable for us. Jesus clearly portrays the attribute of the promised shepherd, this is the reason he didn’t just acknowledged and recognized the peoples’ clamor, but he acted by teaching, feeding and healing them. Unlike the leaders of today who care less about the physical, spiritual, sociological, biological, economical and physiological welfare and wellbeing of the people, Jesus the Good Shepherd was much involved and interested in elevating the situation of the crowd who came to him. How have you transformed your enclave with your talent and gifts?
• Rev. Fr. John Nzete is a Catholic Priest of the Catholic Archdiocese of Benin-City