Image: The Good Shepherd by Hanna Varghese
Scriptures for today's liturgy
As is the case every Sunday, the scripture readings we just heard
are the those read in every Catholic church in the world today.
And I can assure you there’s not a priest in the world
who takes the pulpit today without some soul-searching
as he considers the first reading --
Woe to the shepherds-- and the ways he’s been a careless or unfaithful shepherd,
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
the ways in which he may have mislead,
scattered, lost or harmed those entrusted to his care.
Through the prophet Jeremiah, the Lord’s judgment falls heavy
on shepherds who have failed to protect and nurture,
defend and love those in their flock.
I’ve been reflecting on this for the past week,
looking back over many years, remembering mistakes I’ve made,
some small, some much bigger,
and wondering, too, about mistakes I’ve made
that I'm not even aware of.
Each week on my blog on the Internet
I write and post a prayer called, Monday Morning Offering.
This past Monday found me working with Jeremiah's words
and I’d like to share with you the prayer that came from that.
Good morning, good God!It’s a good thing, even if it’s a hard thing,
You know, Lord,
I try really hard to say the right thing,
to write the right thing, to do the right thing -
but despite my best efforts
my words and deeds can miss their mark
and, even worse, end up hurting
just where I wanted to heal...
Sometimes my efforts at honesty
become a hard lesson in humility
and while I'm grateful for what I've learned
I grieve the cost to those who taught me,
at whose expense my newfound wisdom comes...
Sometimes, Lord, my best intentions
fall apart in my own hands
and, try as I might, it's hard to see
how and when and why something went wrong
- but it did...
So this morning, Lord, I offer you my garbled words
and any harm they've done
and I pray you might speak a healing word
upon whatever unintended hurt I've caused...
And I offer you all I've learned the hard way, Lord:
the way that's paved with others' hopes,
the path that bears the prints of my rough steps.
I ask forgiveness of any whose hearts I've trespassed
I offer you all my good intentions, Lord:
help me see them for what they are,
to discern the selfish from the selfless
and to act upon the wisdom gained...
I offer you all the mistakes I've made, Lord:
the ones I didn't see coming,
the ones I should have seen coming,
and the ones I saw only when it was all too late.
I pray for your forgiveness
- and for the healing of any whom I've hurt.
I offer you the foolish pride that tempts me to think,
too often to believe,
that I am always right and never wrong.
Help me see myself as you see me, Lord:
help me see what is good and true
and help me take honest stock
of what should have no place in this heart of mine...
Tame, heal, shape and mold my heart for you, Lord,
and for all whose paths cross mine...
Good God of Monday mornings,
take hold of my heart this day and night
and through all of the week before me....
when the scriptures call us to accountability.
I hope that this moment this week
will sharpen my own shepherd’s eye
and strengthen my shepherd’s heart
to make me a more faithful servant of God and the church.
And for all of us --
in whatever ways each of us is called to shepherd others in faith,
in our families, among friends, in the parish, in the community,
where we work or play --
perhaps this will be a moment for each of us to review how carefully,
how faithfully we shepherd those in our care.
In the gospel today, Jesus is moved deep in his heart
when he sees others who look to be “sheep without a shepherd.”
Perhaps that’s what we might do this summer,
you and I, each in our own way:
we might keep an eye out for any who seem to be
“sheep without a shepherd,”
and see what we might do to shepherd them,
to bring them closer to us and to God's love.
The Good and faithful Shepherd of us all gathers us to his table now
to nourish us with the gift of his own life.
May his careful shepherding of us
lead us to shepherd one another with greater and more faithful care.