Daily Reflection for July 21, 2020

DAILY REFLECTION  •  JULY 21  •  Holy Prophet Ezekiel


For the sake of his fellow man, St. Simeon left his only friend in the world, his peaceful cell in the wilderness, and made himself out to be a “fool for Christ”. It is told how the Spartan King Lycerges, made great sacrifices for the benefit of his fellow citizens. He issued strict laws, instituting a completely new system of educating the young and instituting order in the State. When he issued these laws, he said to his fellow citizens that he desires to go to Delphi, where there was a great shrine and demanded that they all take an oath to faithfully adhere to his laws until his return. When all the citizenry laid down the oath, Lycerges left his country and never did return. It is a great sacrifice to leave one’s homeland and voluntarily live in a strange country for the sake of the benefit of one’s fellow man. But how much greater is the sacrifice to voluntarily leave one’s mind and continually pretend before men to be as one without a mind. Is not insanity the greatest foreign land known to man? To live in this terrible strange land year after year and that, all for the benefit of your fellow men! (St. Nikolai Velimirovich, Prologue from Ochrid)

Fr. John’s Reflection

“Woe to the shepherds who scatter and destroy the sheep of My pasture!” Therefore thus says the Lord against those who tend My people: “You have scattered My sheep and driven them out. You did not care for them. Behold, I shall punish you according to your evil practices. I will receive the remnant of My people from every land where I have driven them. I will establish them in their pasture, and they shall increase and be multiplied. I will set up shepherds over them who will feed them. They shall fear no more, nor be terrified,” says the Lord.
            “Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, “when I will raise up for David the Righteous Orient, and a King shall reign. He will understand and bring about judgment and righteousness on the earth. In His days Judah will be saved, and Israel shall dwell in confidence. This is His name by which the Lord will call Him: ‘The Lord our Righteousness.'” The Lord says, “Therefore behold, days are coming when they shall no longer say, ‘As the Lord lives who brought up the house of Israel from the land of Egypt,’ but they will say, ‘The Lord lives who gathered all the descendants of Israel from the north country, from all the countries where He drove them, and restored them into their land.'”
(Jeremiah 23:1-8)

The 23rd chapter of Jeremiah’s prophecy is known by every person who ever pastored a parish. It is the condemnation of the shepherds (pastors) who in their evil practices scatter and destroy the sheep of the sheepfold. Their “leadership” is much of the reason Israel is exiled. The Lord, through Jeremiah, tells these shepherds that their flocks will return to their pasture despite the lack of true pastors and that shepherds will be provided by the Lord who will feed them, and they shall no longer be afraid or terrified. Every shepherd (priest) who reads this chapter is given a motivation to examine himself daily and ask if the flock is truly being tended well. In a human sense, we can always answer “no,” because there can always be something more, or better, or kinder, or holier than the efforts of a human being tending the flock given to him by God.

But the condemnation is offset by the second paragraph, when the shepherds are told the Righteous Orient and a King shall rise up. Judgment and righteousness on the earth shall come forth through Him. The Orient is the dawn — rising in the East and illuminating the day. The restoration of the flock will happen through this Shepherd. The promise, of course, is that the Son of God comes to gather together His sheep from the ends of the earth. What was the people of Israel in exile, then restored, is now the Church, in exile through sin and death, now restored through the death and resurrection of Her Shepherd. Every pastor who shakes and shudders reading the first paragraph is given the road map to salvation for himself and his flock in the second. It is by making present the One True Shepherd that any priest or bishop brings not condemnation to his people, but salvation. Sacramentally, we understand the priesthood to be the sacramental presence of Christ. Every priest and bishop is this through the Grace of the Holy Spirit. Pastorally, each priest and bishop must embody the Good Shepherd, who dies for His sheep. If you never thought about it — remember that you are one of the sheep. And remembering that, pray for your shepherd, that the one Good Shepherd might be manifest to you through his prayers and effort.