16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
"...they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things." (Mk. 6:30-34)
Is President Joe Biden a sheep without a shepherd? Sincerely, as a Catholic trying to understand what the U.S. Bishops are saying, I am dismayed. Denying President Biden and other political leaders communion whose views are contrary to Catholic teaching is a complicated issue. Presently, a plethora of comments by U. S. Bishops against and for President Biden receiving the Holy Bead of Life, the Eucharist, exist. American Cardinal Raymond Burke said that "politicians who publicly and obstinately support abortion are apostates who not only should be barred from receiving communion but deserve ex-communication." (APnews.com)
On the other hand, Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington, Delaware, and Cardinal Wilton Gregory of Washington, D.C. are willing to shepherd the Biden family in their area, offering them the Bread of Life. We are a Church divided. In contrast, we learned over the years that the Eucharistic table yields life. However, our Holy table has become a battleground to advance some individuals' agenda, not Christ, the Living Bread.
Unfortunately, as this heated debate continues on the distribution of the Eucharist, I considered my Catholic identity. Was I wrong when attending a Protestant service seeing my grandchild baptized? Did I miss the mark when failing to feed the hungry with a righteous heart? Perhaps, my greatest sin is covetousness or slothfulness. My faults can place spots and wrinkles in the Church even if I am not a politician. Oh, I am a man with unclean lips receiving the Body of Christ. Dirty thoughts have entered my idle mind while tasting the Goodness of the Lord. Am I, too, an apostate who needs to stop receiving the Eucharist and deserve ex-communication? Has my Christian walk tarnished the Holy Church? The prophet Isaiah said, "...all our just deeds are like polluted rags" (Is. 64:5).
Therefore, I, too, must ponder this question, "Am I, along with President Biden like a sheep without a shepherd?" May God forbid that Fr. Msgr. Raymond East, the pastor of St. Teresa of Avila, in Washington, D.C., should ask his flock, the congregation, and me at the Eucharist banister, "Have you been a good Catholic?" Or should I admit to failing St. Paul's instruction, "A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself" (1 Cor. 11:28-29). Interestingly, the responsibility to examine oneself before eating the bread and drinking the cup is a personal matter. Nowhere do we see presbyters, pastors, bishops, or anyone else, for that matter, questioning whose rags are clean to join the Eucharist celebration.
For this reason, the answer to my ardent question is "Yes and No." I say yes, because the prophet Jeremiah said, "Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD" (Jer. 23:1). From our first reading today, Jeremiah's words do not warn all the shepherds, just certain ones. Recorded here is the absolute truth; some shepherds had hidden agendas in the Old Testament. Here is the scary part. Jeremiah revealed their hypocrisy, "You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds." Steven Millies, a professor of public theology at Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, said the following:
Catholic Church received significant financial support in recent years from conservative philanthropists who are skeptical of [Pope] Francis and favored Donald Trump over Biden in the 2020 election. What we're seeing now is an effort to please donors who want a church which will wage a culture war. (APnews.com)
So yes, we are at times likely to be sheep without a shepherd because of poor pastoral skills. Some U.S. Bishops are appearing to be wolves in sheep clothing. They forgot Jesus' prayer for unity, "I pray not only for them, but also for those who will believe in me through their word, so that they may all be one, as you, Father, are in me and I in you." (Jn. 17:20-21). It's no wonder the Vatican official Cardinal Luis Ladaria, the prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, asked the U. S. Bishops, "What the Hell are you thinking?" (NCRonline.com)
Congruently, because of God's infinite love, the answer is also "No." We have Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who leads us to peaceful waters. The Good Shepherd will not allow the thief (Church officials) to steal, kill, and destroy his flock. We do have good bishops, priests, and members in the Catholic Church who follow Jesus' words in Mark's Gospel, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." I am praying that the U.S. Bishops go to a deserted place and rest in the Holy Spirit. They should stay in that secluded place until they hear, "Thus say the Lord, Feed my sheep back."
Additionally, we, the laity, need to find that sacred space where God can speak life into our hearts. We need Jesus to teach us what it means to feed his sheep. Our Father, listen to our cry for unity in the Church!
"So I exhort the presbyters among you, as a fellow presbyter and witness to the sufferings of Christ and one who has a share in the glory to be revealed. Tend the flock of God in your midst, [overseeing] not by constraint but willingly, as God would have it, not for shameful profit but eagerly. Do not lord it over those assigned to you, but be examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:1-4).
Author: Evangelist Michael P. Howard, MACS
US Catholic bishops may press Biden to stop taking Communion
By DAVID CRARY
AP News April 28, 2021
Weaponizing the Eucharist: The Bishops, not Biden, cause scandal.
By MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS
May 3, 2021
Vatican throws wet blanket on U.S. Bishops who want to deny Biden Communion!
By MICHAEL SEAN WINTERS
Nation Catholic Reported, May 11, 2021