The Readings today show what idolatry is. The First Reading tells us Israel appointed kings and princes without consulting God. They worship idols for their own destruction. When one worships idols, one sows the wind and reaps the whirlwind. Idolatry is worship and serving gods other than the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. Hosea said though they offer choice sacrifices, though they eat flesh, the Lord does not accept them. People were offering God the best animals for sacrifices. They commune with him, yet, God will not accept these sacrifices because they consider God as one of the gods they worship. The rituals may be right, the offerings may even exceed what is demanded, but if the heart is not right, the things we offer are nothing. The Pharisees, accused Jesus of casting out demons by the ruler of demons and would not accept Jesus as he is. Despite their meticulous obedience to the Law, they were also committing idolatry because they would not want to accept God as he is. Idolatry then is not determined in action but in the heart, whether I accept God as he is or not.
So who is this God we must worship? How will I know if I worship the true God? The Gospel shows us a God of compassion who saw the crowds, harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. It is God’s desire to be our Shepherd so he can lead us to live with him.
Everywhere we look, especially in this time of pandemic, we see many who thirst for the Truth of God. Many seek God but do not know where to go. They are like sheep without a Shepherd. They look for Truth in various places that do not give the Truth. They seek the Truth in things that do not satisfy, or help them. So what must we do? Jesus tells us, ask the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest. The word sent in Greek literally means to cast out. We are to ask God to cast out laborers to his harvest, to just throw them out to the harvest and let them harvest. This includes us! We must allow God to throw us out into the harvest!
Yes, we must be willing to be sent by God, in our own way. Not everyone is called to preach the Word. Not everyone is called to write like Thomas Aquinas. But everyone is called to shepherd those who are lost. As a shepherd, we are to point people to the God and Father of Jesus Christ, who is the God of heaven and earth. If I preach a Gospel only of obedience to the Law, this will not lead people to God. If I preach a Gospel only of social justice without pointing people to God, then this is not the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If our witness leads us to trust in ourselves, or to congratulate ourselves, then we are worshiping ourselves and not God. The Gospel points to God through Jesus Christ, and leads people to what the Psalm today says: Trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.
This pandemic has forced us to look at ourselves. Who do I trust? Do I trust in my skills, in my supervisor, in the company I work for, in the government? The Greek language has one word translated as faith, belief and trust in English. So if I trust in myself, I have faith in myself and I believe in myself, making me my own god. If we are lost, and confused in this time of pandemic, no one can save us except Jesus himself.
Are you in debt? Are you struggling to make ends meet? Have you contracted the virus and are suffering now, not sure whether you will be healed or not. Or maybe you are seeking something in your life. Yes, do everything possible to help yourself, but remember, God is the only One who can help. Ultimately, it is God who wills what is good for us and if we allow him to work in our lives, he will fulfill it.
Lord, there is no one to help me but you. I trust you, I believe you and I have faith in you. Look at me, Lord and have mercy. I am a sheep without a shepherd. Come and lead me to you. Help me to see your will for me. Be my Lord and Savior.