Today we celebrate Good Shepherd Sunday. All of us want leaders who care about the people they are responsible for. We have seen too many negative examples. The religious leaders in Jesus´ acted out of fear and self interest. Peter tells us that they are like builders who rejected a building block, only to discover that it became the cornerstone of a different structure. Jesus himself contrasts the good shepherd and the hired man, who does not really care about his flock. All of us can identify with the Responsorial Psalm when it tells us not to put our trust in princes.
Our contemporary world abounds with self-interested leaders. Business leaders have used their positions to not only earn fabulous salaries, but to defraud those who invest in their company. Political corruption seems more rampant as elected officials take bribes in exchange for legislative favors. And of course we have witnessed a disheartening lack of leadership in our church. Where does all this corruption come from?
In one sense it is quite natural to blame leaders who act out of self-interest and neglect their flock. After all, they accepted their position of responsibility and they will be judged for their failures to act properly. Nevertheless, there is a deeper problem. Bishop Sheen once addressed the increased corruption in American society. He compared the corruption to the foam we see on the surface of a liquid. What we often don´t notice is that the foam is the result of thousands of tiny bubbles deeper down.
You and I share some of the blame for the corruption of our leaders. Let me give a current example. Most of you probably heard about the reporter in New York City who tried to blackmail famous people by threatening to reveal details of their intimate lives. He could do this only because we have become a voyeuristic society. We want to know things which really do not concern us – the moral failings of prominent people. We purchase newspapers and watch television programs that titillate us with those scandals. The corrupt reporter is the foam and we are the tiny bubbles which create the foam. We get the leaders we deserve.
If we share some of the responsibility for corrupt leaders, we also can have a hand in forming good shepherds. In every Mass we pray for our Holy Father and our bishops. Has that prayer become defunctory or do we really pray for those who have such great responsibility? It is easy enough to criticize the failures of our leaders, but do we take time to praise and encourage the positive things which they do? We obviously want leaders who show integrity and courage – but do we show those qualities in our own lives? For sure, none of will have the impact of Pope Benedict or of a diocesan bishop, but what we do will make some difference, perhaps a crucial difference. A good starting point would be to reject voyeurism in all its forms and concentrate on those areas where we really can make a difference. Although our field of action might appear small, St. John makes it clear we have immense potential:
We are God’s children now; what we shall be has not yet been revealed.
Seapadre Homilies: Cycle A, Cycle B, Cycle C
Pictures from Peru (April 2006):
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap: Suing the Church
Mark Shea: Suiciding the Church