Josemaría Escrivá Obras
81

In the Church of Christ, everyone is obliged to make a tenacious effort to remain loyal to the teaching of Christ. No one is exempt. If the shepherds do not themselves strive to acquire a sensitive conscience and to remain faithful to dogma and moral teaching — which make up the deposit of faith and the inheritance of all — then the prophetic words of Ezechiel will be borne out: "Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say to them, even to the shepherds, thus says the Lord God: Ho, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat of the sheep, you clothe yourselves with the wool... the weak you have not strengthened, the sick you have not healed, the crippled you have not bound up, the strayed you have not brought back, the lost you have not sought, and with force and harshness you have ruled them."

This is a strong reproof, but the offence against God is even worse when those who have received the task of promoting the spiritual welfare of everyone abuse souls instead, depriving them of the crystal water of baptism, which regenerates the soul; of the soothing oil of confirmation, which strengthens it; of the tribunal which pardons; of the food which gives eternal life.

Such is the result when one abandons the war of peace. Anyone who does not put up a fight exposes himself to one or other of the slaveries which can chain hearts of flesh — the slavery of a purely human outlook, the slavery of a zealous desire for temporal influence and prestige, the slavery of vanity, the slavery of money, the slavery of sensuality...

Should God permit you to undergo this test, should you come across shepherds unworthy of the name, do not be scandalized. Christ has promised his Church infallible and unfailing help, but he has not guaranteed the fidelity of the men who compose it. They will never be short of grace, abundant and generous grace, if they do the little God asks of them: if they strive with the help of God's grace to remove the obstacles which get in the way of holiness. If that effort is missing, even he who seems to be very high up, may be very low in God's eyes. "I know your works; you have the name of being alive, and you are dead. Awake, and strengthen what remains of your flock, which is on the point of death, for I have not found your works perfect in the sight of my God. Remember then what you have received and heard; keep that and repent."

This exhortation, which comes from St John in the first century, is addressed to the person in charge of the church in the city of Sardis. So, a weakening of some shepherds' sense of responsibility is not a modern phenomenon. You find it also at the time of the Apostles, in the very century in which our Lord Jesus Christ lived on earth. It is simply that no one is safe if he ceases to strive against himself. Nobody can save himself by his own efforts. Everyone in the Church needs specific means to strengthen himself: humility which disposes us to accept help and advice; mortifications which temper the heart and allow Christ to reign in it; the study of abiding, sound doctrine which leads us to conserve and spread our faith.

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