Bad News, Good News
This is a “bad news, good news sermon.”
The bad news is that things are seriously wrong in the world right now. Take three examples: the wars in the Middle East (which we will return to in a moment); or the Ebola virus epidemic in West Africa; or the racial tensions in Ferguson, Missouri. That’s the bad news. The good news is that things have been worse before now.
Taking the third item first. Missouri has always been troubled by racial tension, ever since the first slaves from Africa were brought to Missouri in 1720. Before the Civil War, one can make the case that that War was begun because of racial tension in Missouri. For all that is wrong with injustice in this country. We are not now in a civil war.
The Ebola virus is a very serious matter. Many hundreds of people have died and even more are infected. But, there are promising reports of a possible vaccine. In the 14th Century, as many as half the population of Europe was killed by Bubonic Plague, known as the “Black Death”. Today, plague is curable.
And then there are the wars in the Middle East. The Holy Land is not holy right now. But, there has always been war in the Middle East, for at least 3,000 years. One of those wars is the subject of today’s first reading from the Book of the Prophet Ezekiel.
We read that Ezekiel is angry with the shepherds of Israel. Very angry.
The shepherds were the rulers of Jerusalem, especially the King and his nobles.
Shepherds are supposed to take care of the sheep, not take care of themselves.
About 600 years before Christ, in the lifetime of Ezekiel, the Babylonians attacked Jerusalem and took whoever survived back to Babylon as slaves. Babylon was in what we now call Iraq. And Ezekiel blamed the shepherds, not the Babylonians.
Pope Francis has been very clear that he wants the leaders of the Church, especially the priests and the bishops to live simple lives. The Latin word “pastor” literally means “shepherd”. Pope Francis has said he wants the shepherds to smell like the sheep. In other words, to take care of the people and not themselves.
(Please don’t tell the pope that I drive an LR2 Land Rover- its old, almost five years used.)
We learn from what I have said, and especially from the Prophet Ezekiel, two things:
1) Perspective helps. If we can see things in their historical context, our small problems are not so bad. That’s just as true when we have a day or even when things seem terribly wrong. This too will pass.
2) We gain that perspective when we take care of others before we things before we think about ourselves.