In the First Reading, God speaks to the shepherds of his people through Ezekiel. In God’s criticism of the shepherds, he implies the role of the shepherds: Shepherds should feed their sheep. Shepherds strengthen the weak. They heal the sick. They bind the injured. They bring back the stray. they seek the lost. In other words, the role of a shepherd is to look after the welfare of their sheep. While Church leaders are responsible to look after their sheep, we also are responsible for our good and salvation. We cannot blindly follow any Church leader because of their position. It will be wise, especially these days, to discern what they say and compare them to what Jesus teaches. Not all Church leaders are faithful to what Jesus taught through the Apostles.
Throughout the life of the Church, there had been good shepherds and wicked shepherds. The saint we celebrate today is John Eudes. He is an example of a faithful shepherd. He was a missionary and organized the Society of Jesus and Mary whose goal is to educate priests and give missions. He said A man is no true Christian if he has no devotion to the Mother of Jesus Christ. With this, he gave a hint on how we can know a true Shepherd. If a person has genuine devotion to Mary, that person most probably will be a good shepherd. This person will most probably have solid faith based on Jesus Christ, he will feed their sheep with the Truth from heaven. He will strengthen the weak, not by encouraging them in their sin, but by giving them solid teaching. He will lead those who have strayed back to the Lord.
The landowner in the Gospel is like a good shepherd. He goes out and seeks labourers in his vineyard. He agrees to pay them for their work. As the day progresses, he goes out to seek others and calls them to his vineyard. When the day ends, he pays them the same wage. Those who worked the entire day complained they did not receive fair wages. On further analysis, the landowner paid them what they had agreed. The landowner was more generous to those who came later in the day, especially those who worked only for an hour.
The landowner showed justice to those who agreed to work for a wage. But he was generous to others who worked without an agreement, trusting he will pay them justly. This is the trait of a shepherd: his word can be trusted. He is just. He is generous. He will say things that we will not want to hear but we need to hear.
The shepherd God warns Ezekiel about are not only those who blatantly abuse to their sheep, they are the ones who scatter the sheep, who cause division in the Body of Christ. These are the ones who speak against errors and sin in the Church as some false shepherds tend to accuse. But the ones who scatter the sheep encourage evil by remaining silent in the face of evil or by actively promoting sin. These feed themselves at the expense of their sheep. These leave their sheep to wild animals to devour. If we know of shepherds like that, we must to pray for them because God will hold them responsible.
This is why it is important to wisely discern what we hear because what we believe will either lead us to holiness or to sin.
Lord Jesus, you are the Good Shepherd who guides your sheep back to you. You feed us with your Word. Give me a shepherd after your heart, so I grow in holiness. Give me wisdom to discern what I hear and let my desire only be your Truth and your life. Deliver me from evil Lord, and from wicked shepherds. St John Eudes, pray for me, that I may know our Lady so she can lead me to her Son.