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Of Shepherds and Vineyards

Fr. Lawrence Jagdfeld, O.F.M., Administrator

Both readings for today's liturgy are rather lengthy. Using the imagery of shepherd and vineyard owner, God reveals the love and care that is ours for the taking.

The reading from the Prophet Ezekiel is a stern rebuke to the leaders of Israel who are cast in the image of shepherds who have abused their flock. They have grown rich and well-fed by extorting money and crops from the peasants who make up their flock. After stern recriminations, God simply states, "I will look after and tend my sheep."

Casting God in the image of a shepherd is a familiar figure in the Christian Scriptures. Parables involving sheep and shepherds are used in the synoptic Gospels, and St. John has Jesus exclaim that he is the noble (good) shepherd. As is the case in any profession or vocation, there are both good and bad examples. The same is true of the "shepherds" of the Church today. Ezekiel's words of warning are just as appropriate for our own day as they were for his.

Using the vineyard owner as another metaphor for God, St. Matthew writes in such a way as to accentuate the compassion that God shows each of the sheep. While some of the workers criticize the vineyard owner for his equal pay policy, they have forgotten that we cannot earn God's love and compassion. All we need do is place our faith in God, and mercy and compassion are ours for the taking.

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