A good shepherd is always close to his people, while a bad priest is only interested in power and money.
That was Pope Francis’ message at the Santa Marta Mass on Monday, as he reflected on the Gospel reading for the day.
In the reading from St Luke’s Gospel, Jesus is in the synagogue where he meets a woman who has been crippled for years and is unable to stand up straight. The pope notes how Luke uses five verbs to describe Jesus’ actions as the good shepherd who is always close to his people. Jesus saw, he called her, he spoke to her, he laid his hands on her and he cured her.
Bad priests interested in power and money
But the doctors of the Law, the Pharisees and Sadducees, those who are very distant from their people, rebuke him continuously. These were not good shepherds, the pope explained, as they were closed within their own world and not interested in their people. Or perhaps, he added, they were only interested in them when the service was over and they wanted to see how much money had been collected.
Jesus feels compassion for marginalised
Jesus, on the other hand, is close to the woman and this closeness comes from the compassion he feels in his heart. Pope Francis said Jesus was always there with the most marginalized people, those who had been rejected by the clerical crowd, the poor and the sick, the sinners and the lepers. The good shepherd comes close and feels compassion, he said, adding that he is not ashamed to touch the wounded flesh of those marginalized people, just as Jesus did.
God teaches us to be close to others
A good shepherd, the pope insisted, doesn’t say, “Yes, yes, I’m with you in spirit,” and keep his distance, but rather he does what God did in sending his Son: he taught us to show mercy and compassion by lowering himself, emptying himself and making himself a servant to others.
Hypocrites are offended by Jesus’ words
The clerical crowd, Pope Francis continued, are only close to power and money, making friends with influential people and worrying about their own pockets. They are the hypocrites who are not interested in their people but become offended when Jesus accuses them, saying that they always follow the Law.
We will be judged by closeness to others
Luke tells us that the whole crowd rejoiced when Jesus’ adversaries were humiliated – while that is a sin, the pope said, the people were glad because they had suffered so much. But the good shepherd, he concluded, is the one who sees, calls, speaks, touches and heals. Just as God came close to us through Jesus Christ, he said, all of us will be judged by how we try to be close to those who are hungry, sick, in prison or in any kind of need.