Daily Reflection – Aug 17, 2016
Wednesday 17 August 2016
First Reading: Ezekiel 34:1-11
The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want
Gospel Reading: Matthew 20:1-16
Today’s Note: Wednesday of the Twentieth Week in Ordinary Time
Jesus told his disciples this parable:
“The Kingdom of heaven is like a landowner
who went out at dawn to hire laborers for his vineyard.
After agreeing with them for the usual daily wage,
he sent them into his vineyard.
Going out about nine o’clock,
he saw others standing idle in the marketplace,
and he said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard,
and I will give you what is just.’
So they went off.
And he went out again around noon,
and around three o’clock, and did likewise.
Going out about five o’clock,
he found others standing around, and said to them,
‘Why do you stand here idle all day?’
They answered, ‘Because no one has hired us.’
He said to them, ‘You too go into my vineyard.’
When it was evening the owner of the vineyard said to his foreman,
‘Summon the laborers and give them their pay,
beginning with the last and ending with the first.’
When those who had started about five o’clock came,
each received the usual daily wage.
So when the first came, they thought that they would receive more,
but each of them also got the usual wage.
And on receiving it they grumbled against the landowner, saying,
‘These last ones worked only one hour,
and you have made them equal to us,
who bore the day’s burden and the heat.’
He said to one of them in reply,
‘My friend, I am not cheating you.
Did you not agree with me for the usual daily wage?
Take what is yours and go.
What if I wish to give this last one the same as you?
Or am I not free to do as I wish with my own money?
Are you envious because I am generous?’
Thus, the last will be first, and the first will be last.”
I myself will look after and tend my sheep. (Ezekiel 34:11)
In St John’s Gospel, Jesus’ first words are a question, “What are you looking for?” After the resurrection, this question becomes, “Whom are you looking for?” St John guides us from desiring things to a realisation that in the end we must desire a person: we must want to see Jesus and be with him.
John conducts this formative experience on many levels. One level is through several statements in which Jesus reveals what he is for us: Light of the world, the true vine, the Way, the Truth and the Life, and so on.
Reading Ezekiel 34 and Psalm 23 today we remember one of these statements: “I am the Good Shepherd.” “What are you looking for?” A guide through life? Someone to show you the way? There is no better guide than the Good Shepherd.
What does a good shepherd look like? While we could say many things, perhaps the best place to look is Jesus’ parable in today’s Gospel. When a vineyard owner goes out into the marketplace in search of workers both in the middle and at the end of the day, he doesn’t waste time blaming the people who are standing around idle. Instead, he gives them the benefit of the doubt: they intended to work, but no one had hired them. So he hires them and sends them into his vineyard. Then at the end of the day, he pays everyone—even the late hires—enough to take care of their families for the day.
This is what a good shepherd looks like. The vineyard owner takes seriously his responsibility for the people entrusted to him, and he goes out of his way to care for them. He shows generosity, kindness, and compassion. He goes beyond doing only the minimum that is required and instead lives out in a very practical way Jesus’ command to love one another.
Of course, we are not always good shepherds. Like the rulers of Israel whom Ezekiel addresses in the first reading, we may lord it over people by being critical or heavy-handed or by putting our own interests ahead of their needs (Ezekiel 34:4). God was so displeased within Israel’s shepherds, that he took back the ministry of shepherding Israel to himself. But don’t worry; Jesus knows this about us, and he isn’t surprised.
Thus when Jesus claims to be the “Good Shepherd” he clearly if indirectly claims to be God, not just a human shepherd or guide. He doesn’t reject us or condemn us. Neither does he remain aloof. He gives us the opportunity to repent and do better. He himself comes and helps us care for the sheep. He doesn’t just tell us what to do; he does the work right alongside us and gives us the grace to become more loving and patient.
Psalm 23 proclaims “The Lord is my shepherd”, and the Psalm helps us to understand Jesus’ claim to be the Good Shepherd.
“Lord Jesus, be our Shepherd, our guide through life. Teach me how to care for the people you have entrusted to me.”