There were about two minutes left in the Olympic quarterfinal basketball game between Argentina and the United States. The U.S. team was up by more than twenty points and the game was well under hand. I was watching while preparing some pulled pork loin for Wednesday family dinner night. 

I kept getting distracted by the cheering and the horns blowing and the chanting from the game. I switched my attention from pork to the TV screen expecting to see fans draped in red, white, and blue going berzerk about the big win. But that’s not what the noise was about at all. It was the substantial fan base in Rio dressed in light blue and black.

The Argentina fans!

They poured their hearts out in support of their long-of-tooth national basketball team as they wrap up a great career on the international basketball scene. The end of the road for this great team and their fans were taking care of them all the way to the end.

After the game, I did a quick check of the daily readings on a Catholic website. The daily reading from Ezekiel was about how shepherds should be taking care of the flock before they take care of themselves. I thought about how well the Argentina fans behaved as good shepherds of their flock. I thought about how they supported and cheered for each other even though things with their team were headed south in a hurry.

It made me wonder if we in the U.S. still support each other like that. Do we spend our lives as being good shepherds to each other? I hate to admit it, but I don’t think we do. Are we becoming a nation of bad shepherds, like the shepherds of Israel from Ezekiel? Are we feeding on the milk, dressing in the wool, and sacrificing the fattest sheep to feed ourselves instead of taking care of the needs of the flock? My guess is that if the roles on the Olympic court were reversed, the red, white, and blue fans would have been storming out of the gates by the time the blowout loss hit the fourth quarter leaving each other lost and scattered in our obsession with a winner.

We’ve forgotten about the flock.

This spirit of good shepherding is something we currently lack in our country. We have become a nation hell bent on putting ourselves ahead of the flock. Look at our 2016 Election. It’s real hard to find a good shepherd among the candidates. Without one unifying good shepherd to guide us, no matter what happens in the election, we need to do a better job at being a positive shepherd to our own flocks. We need to work to fulfill the needs of our local sheep and take care of the world around us to make it a better, more loving, place.

As we head into the fourth quarter of this Divine Year of Mercy, let’s re-dedicate to taking care of the needs of the flock and our fellow man. Let’s use the spirit of the New Evangelization to make the weak sheep strong, care for the sick, and bring back the strays. Let’s fight the urge to be selfish. Let’s follow the example of the Argentinian basketball fans and cheer each other through tough times because, honestly, we are weak without the strength of our flock.

We are weak without our Good Shepherd.

Ezekiel 34:1-11

The word of Yahweh was addressed to me as follows,  ‘Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel; prophesy and say to them, “Shepherds, the Lord Yahweh says this: Disaster is in store for the shepherds of Israel who feed themselves! Are not shepherds meant to feed a flock? Yet you have fed on milk, you have dressed yourselves in wool, you have sacrificed the fattest sheep, but failed to feed the flock. You have failed to make weak sheep strong, or to care for the sick ones, or bandage the injured ones. You have failed to bring back strays or look for the lost. On the contrary, you have ruled them cruelly and harshly. For lack of a shepherd they have been scattered, to become the prey of all the wild animals; they have been scattered. My flock is astray on every mountain and on every high hill; my flock has been scattered all over the world; no one bothers about them and no one looks for them.

“Very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: As I live, I swear it — declares the Lord Yahweh — since my flock has been pillaged and for lack of a shepherd is now the prey of every wild animal, since my shepherds have ceased to bother about my flock, since my shepherds feed themselves rather than my flock, very well, shepherds, hear the word of Yahweh: The Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I am against the shepherds. I shall take my flock out of their charge and henceforth not allow them to feed my flock. And the shepherds will stop feeding themselves, because I shall rescue my sheep from their mouths to stop them from being food for them. “For the Lord Yahweh says this: Look, I myself shall take care of my flock and look after it.”

Mike Hays

Mike Hays

Mike Hays is a husband, a father of three, a lifelong Kansan and works as a molecular microbiologist. Besides writing, he has been a high school strength and conditioning coach, a football coach and a baseball coach. His debut middle grade historical fiction novel, THE YOUNGER DAYS, is a 2012 recipient of The Catholic Writer's Guild Seal of Approval Award. You can find it at the publisher's website or on Amazon.

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