Herd instinct. We sit as a rather large group at the bar. We have some innocent fun but we grow louder as the evening progresses. I had always wanted to be part of this popular group. Soon with more alcohol we are having fun at the expense of others and becoming a public nuisance. I feel uncomfortable as this isn’t really me. But I go along because I fear being left out of the group. I surrender to the herd.
Peer pressure. We surround ourselves with family and friends. We are actually surrounding ourselves with love. We need to find acceptance and affirmation. It is good to be loved. But at the same time we influence ourselves to the ‘behavior of the world’ they subscribe to. What is their definition of love? What is good and bad? What is OK and cool? Like it or not peer pressure shape our own behavior and beliefs. We feed off one another.
Deep into our individual selves we will find the spot that will keep saying, “This isn’t me” especially when our behavior begins to conflict with what is proper, right and good. “O that today if you listen to his voice, harden not your hearts”. This is the voice of our Shepherd who desires only for us to be back on the right path that will lead us back to him.
We must act on this voice. Most times the voice is inaudible on its own. It is amplified by a brother or a sister who comes to speak to us out of concern. We must allow them to tell us our faults; to be humble and acknowledge that we have been blinded. They come out of love. We must look for such persons in our herd or peer group. If we can’t find one then we are in the wrong herd.
“If your brother does something wrong, go and have it out with him alone, between your two selves. If he listens to you, you have won back your brother. If he does not listen, take one or two others along with you: the evidence of two of three witness is required to sustain any charge. But if he refuses to listen to these, report it to the community”.
This isn’t about someone doing something wrong to us personally. It is about the choice of our lifestyle, the herd we choose to belong to. The second reading spoke of the choice lifestyle, “Avoid getting into debt, except the debt of mutual love”.
We do not live perfect lives. None of us do. Much as we are ready to go and counsel the world, we must first allow ourselves to be counselled. We must be accountable for our own thoughts and actions. It is difficult to do these on our own. We must actively seek out people who can become partners to facilitate our accountability. We must make it easier for that brother or sister to come and speak with us when we do something wrong.
We must find a herd of like-minded creatures where we can be on the look-out for one another, to be accountable to each other. This is the mark of a Christian community where the voice of Christ is amplified by our own voices and actions, “For where two or three meet in my name, I shall be there with them”.
Not a herd but a flock.
23rd Sunday in Ordinary Time