Today’s readings presents two images of leadership, one good and another bad, and tries to show the qualities of a good leader. Sheep need a shepherd in order to be fed, protected, and healthy; they cannot easily survive on their own. In the First Reading the Lord describes the poor leaders of Israel as bad shepherds who mistreat and exploit the very sheep they should nourish and protect. He promises to shepherd them personally instead, a promise he would keep through the Good Shepherd who’d lay down his life for his sheep.
In the Gospel Our Lord gives the example of a benevolent employer, but more to describe God’s goodness in rewarding those who enter his Kingdom, whether from the beginning of their lives or at the last minute. Whether they began in his service early or late, the employer out of his goodness and mercy provides what they need to live; he doesn’t try to squeeze more work out of them with raises that they don’t need, nor does he penalize them for being late hires. Unlike the bad shepherds of the First Reading, the benevolent employer focuses on the good of his workers, not what they can do for him. He puts people before profit.
Our Lord doesn’t need our collaboration and service, yet he blesses us when we help him. Let’s thank Our Lord for all the blessings he has showered on us by being good sheep, good workers, good shepherds, or good employers. In short, let’s do well in whatever vocation he has given us.