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  • Writer's pictureElpidio Pezzella

The Hirelings

But ahireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep, sees the wolf coming andleaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep.

(John 10:12-13 NKJV)

In the speech reported by John in his Gospel, Jesus compares himself to the (good) shepherd, as opposed to the hireling. Probably the Master is referring to the leaders of the people who are not disinterested guides, as they exploit the people entrusted, as long as it is convenient. Then when the wolves arrive (which could also represent the Romans), the leaders abandon the people. What differentiates them is the attitude they take towards the sheep: the good shepherd lends his service out of love, the hireling does it for money. When a wolf arrives to kidnap and disperse them, the hireling is worried about defending his life, for this reason "he leaves the sheep and runs away". In order to escape, he does not need to run away, as long as he does not give him his help, he is silent when he sees and hides in silence. Even though he works and cares, he does all this for a return, he seeks privileges and temporal advantages, he is greedy, he craves earthly honors. There are some in the Church who are in charge of authority, and of them Paul says that they seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (Philippians 2:21), the only one who does not seek his own interest and freely offers his life.

Augustine taught that “in the Church there are many who seek earthly advantages, and yet preach Christ. Also through them the voice of Christ is heard, and the sheep follow, not the hireling, but through the hireling the voice of the Shepherd”. Certainly the hireling is not a recommendable figure. We know there are hirelings , but only the Lord knows who they are. However, we can identify them by the Lord's counsel: "You will know them by their fruits" (Matthew 7:16). May the Lord enlighten us to recognize hirelings and not become hirelings ourselves. There are many who seek material gain, and yet preach Christ. The sheep follow not the hireling, but the shepherd's voice that has also made itself heard through the hireling. The apostle Paul pointed out to the Philippians: "Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel .What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice" (1:15-18).

But if we turn the discussion from the side of the sheep, one wonders if they are able to distinguish a hireling from the shepherd. A different danger deserves to be reported. There are not many wolves that sneak in, but sheep that voluntarily leave the fold. And although in some sheepfolds there may be hireling shepherds, some of the flock spontaneously practice transhumance (a form of seasonal and temporary migration of flocks from pastures in the plains to those at high altitude and vice versa). In these journeys the animals enjoy fresh pastures, but do not change "ownership". In fact, even at high altitude, when they return to the valley, they have their own stable, where they receive assistance and supply their milk. They know very well who their shepherd is, and they don't follow others. When Jesus spoke of himself as a good shepherd or as a door to the fold he had all this in mind, and taught it so that we could take it into account and learn to be ethically correct. The lesson is yet to be learned. It is true that souls belong to Christ, it is equally true that the church is one. But I think it is time to say enough both to "ecclesial transhumance" and to the service concerned. I would like to encourage everyone to have their own fold at the door of which there is the good shepherd, reminding those who easily migrate or go away that "For you were like sheep going astray, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls" (1 Peter 2:25). To those who have been called to serve, however, I address these words: "Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your labor is not in vain in the Lord" (1 Corinthians 15:58).

Weekly Bible Reading

Plan #38

September 13, Proverbs 16-18; 2 Corinthians 6

September 14, Proverbs 19-21; 2 Corinthians 7

September 15, Proverbs 22-24; 2Corinths 8

September 16, Proverbs 25-26; 2 Corinthians 9

September 17, Proverbs 27-29; 2 Corinthians 10

September 18, Proverbs 30-31; 2 Corinthians 11:1-15

September 19, Ecclesiastes 1-3; 2 Corinthians 11:16-33


Photo di Aaron Murphy,

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