Woe to shepherds, hope to their victims

Woe to shepherds, hope for their victims

Upon preparation for lectoring at Mass this morning, I switched my phone to usccb.org/bible/readings/082218.cfm and listened to the first reading, Ezekiel 34:1-11. It is the first reading for Wednesday of the 20th week in Ordinary time.

“… Thus says the Lord GOD: Woe to the shepherds of Israel who have been pasturing themselves!
Should not shepherds, rather, pasture sheep?
You have fed off their milk, worn their wool,
and slaughtered the fatlings,
but the sheep you have not pastured.
You did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick
nor bind up the injured.
You did not bring back the strayed nor seek the lost,
but you lorded it over them harshly and brutally.
So they were scattered for the lack of a shepherd,
and became food for all the wild beasts.”

While listening to it, I was stunned by its timing and the Pennsylvania priests’ sexual abuse scandal and the apparent mishandling of it by the bishops, the shepherds of the Church.

My heart fell. It’s reported that 300 priests have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. There are at least 1,000 victims!

I noticed that the reading raises the issue with the shepherds beginning with “Woe to the shepherds …” and accuses them of their wrong doing.

But by the end of the reading, it turns from God’s condemnation of the shepherds to God’s salvation of his sheep.

“I swear I am coming against these shepherds.
I will claim my sheep from them
and put a stop to their shepherding my sheep
so that they may no longer pasture themselves.
I will save my sheep,
that they may no longer be food for their mouths.”

I hope that the faith of the victims of clerical sexual abuse has not been destroyed. I pray that God leads them to true shepherds who will heal and comfort them.

After hearing the readings I remembered that it was the Memorial of the Queenship of the Blessed Virgin Mary and realized that the reading for the memorial might replace the reading from Ordinary time.

The reading for the memorial, which is always on August 22nd, regardless of the day or the week, was the chosen reading at Our Lady of Lourdes Parish, so I read from Isaiah 9:1-6.

“The people who walked in darkness have seen a great light; upon those who dwelt in the land of gloom a light has shone. You have brought them abundant joy and great rejoicing.”

… “For the yoke that burdened them, the pole on their shoulder, And the rod of their taskmaster You have smashed, as on the day of Midian.”

… “For a child is born to us, a son is given us; upon his shoulder dominion rests. …”

The psalm was Psalm 113:1-8, and it too was full of praise, urging the people to bless the name of the Lord.

The Gospel was the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy. In it the Archangel Gabriel announces to Mary that she would conceive in her womb and bear a son who will be called Son of the Most High (Luke 1:25-38).

“Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end.”

… “Mary said, ‘Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.’”

It seems that God had in mind readings for both the priests, who committed the crime of sexual abuse, and their victims. Doom for the evil shepherds and hope (a great light) for their victims who had walked in darkness.

Why we call Mary the Queen of the Universe, and why it matters now

Jesus is the King of the Universe. He sits at the right hand of God and has been appointed king.

Mary is Queen because Jesus is King. She is the Queen Mother.

In the Old Testament, the queen was not the wife of the king, but his mother. And the queen interceded to her son, the king, for favors (1 Kings 2:19).

There is only one intercessor to God the father, and that is Jesus.

But Mary, our Queen Mother, intercedes to her son Jesus, the King, on our behalf. It is then up to Jesus to intercede to his Father. This gives us great hope.

Just as Mary interceded with her son when the wedding guests had no wine (John 2:1-11), the victims of clerical sexual abuse, can pray to (ask favor of) the Blessed Mother to intercede on their behalf to find that great healing light, Jesus.

For Jesus came into the world to lift the burden carried by the victims. He alone can smash the yoke and the rod of their taskmaster, their abusers.

Are these priests evil or sick, perhaps both

As far as the priests involved in clergy sex abuse, are they sick or are they evil? Jesus will have to be their judge.

Those who are sick, can ask the Queen of Mercy to plead their case to Jesus who came to heal the sick, not the healthy (Mark 2:17, Luke 5:31).

If they are evil, they must turn from evil and repent. If they are truly sorry, they have Christ’s assurance of forgiveness, for even the sorrowful, trusting thief on the cross found redemption (Luke 23:39-43).

If they are truly evil, we have many of Jesus’ parables wherein the wicked are cast into eternal fires.

Jesus will be the final judge.