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Sunday, 19 July 2015

Whenever the Word "Shepherds" Comes Up...

... or "Shepherd", singular, comes up in the propers, as it did today, I am set to wondering.

Starting, oh, I dunno... maybe 15 years ago? at least... and continuing to the most recent December and January, the boilerplate Christmas and Christmas-adjacent homily became about the fact that the angels first appeared to, and Christ's first human non-family member adorers were - THOSE NASTY SHEPHERDS.

That in the day shepherds were despised, discriminated against, considered the lowest of the low, and so, see? that proves that God With Us came to be with "us", in the person of the lowliest, most marginalized of humanity, thus beginning, and demonstrating from the git-go the Church's, and really, God's Preferential Option for the Poor.

Now, obviously, my personal experience of Christmas and Christmas-adjacent homilies is a pretty small sampling, but not as small as you might think.
I have never in the past coupla decades heard fewer than 6 Christmas and Christmas-adjacent homilies, and most years my Christmas and Christmas-adjacent homily intake was in the double digits. One year I heard,  in the time from vigil on the 24th to noon Christmas day alone, seven. SEVEN different sermons from seven different priests and deacons.
So what with playing, singing, or chanting commitments some years; and just attending, as a PIP, Xmases, Mother of Gods, Holy Familys, the "feasts of Stephen", Holy Innocents, and just your average weekday in the octave ofs; not to mention Lessons and Carolses or vesperses where someone in a roman collar said a few words, I've heard a powerful number of Christmas and Christmas-adjacent homilies.
And I don't recall it being  like this when I was younger, but in the recent past not many sermons or homilies failed to mention the dreadful status of shepherds in 1st century Palestine and the lessons we can take from that, at least in passing.

It's like all the Catholic preachers in America got a memo in the late '90s, and went with the herd as docilely as any 7th grade girl. (What are you gonna preach on wear to school today? I dunno,what are you thinkin' of wearing?)
My question is this -
If all the residents of Bethlehem and its environs, including observant Jews, have such contempt for shepherds, how in the world do they read their scriptures?
Do people who have contempt for the profession and those who fill it, sing joyfully and trustingly that the Lord is their shepherd? look forward to the Lord appointing shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble? 
What did they think of Jacob worshipping a God who he said had been his shepherd from his birth to his death?
Who was "the Mighty One of Jacob... the Shepherd, the Rock of Israel"?
How could David and his people ask God to shepherd them and carry them forever if shepherds were something contemptible?

I'm not saying the homilists conclusions were wrong, just maybe their premises.

Anyway, that's the sort of thing days like today leave me wondering...

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