The Purpose of the Shepherd


In the Gospel of Matthew chapter 16 Jesus gives to St. Peter and his successors the power to “bind” and “loose.” This reading corrects a common misconception. Namely, that a priest, a bishop, or a pope cannot correct the moral behavior of the faithful. Instead, we learn that the “binding” and “loosing” our Lord entrusts to St. Peter includes moral correction, even at times public correction. A shepherd sometimes needs to go after the lost sheep. As visible shepherds the Pope, the bishops, and the priests call back the straying sheep.
St. Augustine has particularly strong words against those shepherds who do not seek to correct the errors or failings of Catholics. He writes, “God will call the bad shepherds to account for his sheep and for their deaths.” Of course, such correction must be done with charity, but charitable correction does not exclude speaking hard truths.
Our Lord founded His Church on the Rock of Saint Peter to give us a sure and concrete sign of his continual governance for us. He has not forsaken us; rather through His Church, the Papacy, the bishops, and the priests, He continually instructs and guides us to salvation.