AUGUST 18, 2010: SAINT JOHN EUDES- EZECHIEL 34:1-11; MATTHEW 20;1-16

 

THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD: I MYSELF WILL LOOK AFTER AND TEND MY SHEEP. These are the final words of today’s first reading. They are spoken by the prophet who represents the Lord’s indignation as he gives assurance of his personal care to his people who had been neglected and left to their enemies by their spiritual leaders. God himself will see to the welfare of his chosen ones seeing that the appointed leaders not only fail in their duty, but abuse their office. As Ezechiel puts it, the shepherds “did not strengthen the weak nor heal the sick nor bind up the injured . . . but you lorded it over them.” Clerical abuse was a serious problem that caused great harm to God’s people already six centuries before Christ’s birth. As a result, the prophet declares in God’s name, “My sheep were scattered and wandered over all the mountains and high hills.” This was the situation that evoked the promise that concludes today’s text: THUS SAYS THE LORD GOD: I MYSELF WILL LOOK AFTER AND TEND MY SHEEP. Rather that tolerate such abuse, God will intervene personally to provide for the needs of his flock.

The last words of Jesus recorded in the Gospel of Matthew are in the form of a solemn promise that echoes this same promise. Given in very different circumstances they were uttered as he was about to return to the Father after his resurrection from the dead.  Knowing that his people would be exposed to serious dangers after his departure, he gave a similar assurance to the shepherds he appointed to guide and care for his flock. The assurance he gave has often been a source of encouragement and renewed confidence to the Church in times of suffering and trials. His promise still holds true today and remains a source of confidence for the faithful: “Behold I am with you always, even to the end of the world.”(28:20) We can be sure of God’s assistance and protection when men fail us even become an oppressive burden for the members of the Church.

 

The presence of our Lord to his Church has appeared in a variety of forms over the centuries. Today we celebrate the feast of a saint whom the Lord raised up at a time when many of his faithful were in special need.. Saint John Eudes did much to rejuvenate the priesthood in Normandy in his day, and contributed in a variety of ways to the renewal of the life of prayer in France where the Church was suffering from Calvinist attacks without and Jansenist influences within. He succeeded through emphasizing the love of the Sacred Heart of Jesus as the primary source of the Catholic life. To this emphasis he closely associated devotion to the heart of Mary. He succeeded in implanting a new, vitalized spirit into the priesthood and the Church of his day, for he understood that only God’s love is capable of renewing the human heart and brings us to fulfillment. He not only preached and taught this truth but embodied it in his person. He demonstrated by his courageous and humble ministry that love of God is not mere sentiment, but a strength that overcomes human respect, frees us from dependence on human approval, and finds joy in service to others. Practical as he showed himself to be, he demonstrated that putting prayer and trust in God in the first place is the heart of our Catholic way of life. May the same Spirit that guided him in difficult times be present within each of us and lead us by the same love of the Sacred Heart that filled the soul of Saint John Eudes. &               


Abbot John Eudes Bamberger

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