I remember something a good friend said several years ago when he was talking about the movies “Rocky” and “Karate Kid.” He said that they had one thing very much in common: they both needed a Manager to be successful. Of course Rocky had “Mick” and “Paulie” as his managers, and the Karate Kid had “Mr. Miyagi.” As talented as Rocky and the Karate Kid were, it was still crucial for them to have someone train them; otherwise they would never reach their full sporting potential.
You and I are no different. We, too, need a “Manager,” and his name is “Jesus Christ.” In today’s gospel, when Jesus got out of the boat and saw the huge crowd waiting for him, he “took pity on them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” What do sheep do, when they do not have a shepherd? They wander off and get lost or they get tangled in thick brush, and will die unless someone sets them free or they may meet up with hungry dingoes and other kinds of predators.
If you and I do not look after our spiritual life, and if we do not have the right “manager,” we run risks that are much more severe than those in nature for they determine our eternal life! A slack moral life leads to the development of persistent regular vices which lack characteristic virtues. If we insist on being our own shepherd, our own “manager,” then we will never reach our full potential – only a fool has himself for a client. There are a lot of predators waiting to devastate our spiritual life, and we only have to watch TV or read the paper to see the many examples of destructive forces who are ready and willing to lure us down the fork in the road that leads away from Jesus.
Jesus commissioned Peter and the other Apostles to be the pastoral leaders of his Church his “shepherds” with His own entrusted authority. Vatican Council II teaches dogmatically that a bishop takes the place of Christ himself as shepherd, therefore if we ignore or discount their formal teaching we are placed at great spiritual risk.