Three “classes” of priests: “The shepherd is to be loved, the hireling is to be tolerated, of the robber must we beware.”

Saint Augustine

A hired man, who is not a shepherd and whose sheep are not his own, sees a wolf coming and leaves the sheep and runs away, and the wolf catches and scatters them.
Preaching on this verse, St. Augustine once said, “The shepherd is to be loved, the hireling is to be tolerated, of the robber must we beware.” He refers these three characters to three classes of priests.

On Good Shepherd Sunday, we do well to consider the qualities of these characters and, even more, how the faithful ought to relate to their priests and bishops. Why is it that the people should tolerate the hireling?

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Without a clearly visible Shepherd to keep them pointed in the right direction, the flock tends to get scattered and confused.

Without a clearly visible Shepherd to keep them pointed in the right direction, the flock tends to get scattered and confused. Then, one by one, they get carried off and devoured. God doesn’t want that to happen to us. Do you remember all the Old Testament figures who were shepherds? Whenever a shepherd had to leave his flock, even for a little while, he would ask a trusted friend, relative or assistant to tend it for him. So it’s no coincidence that Christ, the Good Shepherd, knowing He would soon need to leave His flock for a while (approximately 1970+ years and still counting), chose to leave it in the care of Peter, His trusted assistant and the man that both He and His Father in heaven agreed, was right for the job.

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