Sunday, November 23, 2008

Sheep, Sheep Dogs, And Wolves

The Lord says this: I am going to look after my
flock myself and keep all of it in view. As a shepherd keeps all his
flock in view when he stands up in the middle of his scattered sheep,
so shall I keep my sheep in view. I shall rescue them from wherever
they have been scattered during the mist and darkness. I myself will
pasture my sheep, I myself will show them where to rest–it is the Lord
who speaks. I shall look for the lost one, bring back the stray,
bandage the wounded and make the weak strong. I shall watch over the
fat and healthy. I shall be a true shepherd to them.

As for you, my sheep, the Lord says this: I will judge between sheep and sheep, between rams and he-goats.

--Ezekiel 34:11-12,15-17

Today is the Feast of Christ the King, and the above passage was the first reading of today's Mass. I thought it was an interesting choice - certainly it wasn't accidental in any way. Why that is, however, I'm not sure I can explain. And it struck me in a weird way because of something I saw on television this afternoon. I mentioned this on a couple of blogs that I follow, and I thought I would add it here as well. I would be remiss if I didn't.

The Military Channel has been running a series entitled, "Alpha Company: Iraq Diary." It is a chronicle of the day-to-day life of the Marines of "Alpha", 3rd Reconnaissance Battalion. The content has been interesting mainly because it has been one of frustration, in large part, for the Marines who are part of the Company during the taping of episodes - most of their activity centers on patrolling, and they do a lot of work arresting "bad guys" instead of actual combat. Some would say that this is a good thing, and ultimately I think these Marines feel the same way. But they're trained to fight, and a problem that is part of work like this is that it "takes the edge off of the knife", in a manner of speaking.

Anyway, the thing that really caught my attention and made me want to talk about this was because of comments made near the end of the episode. The Company Gunnery Sergeant (known in Marine speak as "the company gunny" or the "big daddy", the second ranking enlisted Marine behind the First Sergeant - manages the day-to-day operations of the company) was talking about the whole protection aspect of their job there. They were posted to operate within the area of The Sunni Triangle, known to be rather hostile and loaded with insurgents willing to do what is necessary to de-stabilize the legitimate government in any way possible. Much of what these guys were doing was, in addition to searching out known (and likely unknown) insurgents, protection of the locals in the area they were operating in. And the gunny said something to the effect of, "96% of the people here are like sheep. The other 4% are either wolves or sheep dogs. The difference between the wolves and the dogs is simple: wolves are independent operators - they have no boundaries and they go after the sheep at will. The dogs, on the other hand, know the rules. They will go after the wolves when they're found to be going after the sheep."

What the gunny said really clicked with me in terms of the above Scripture reading. It was really bizarre - I hadn't expected to see any sort of connection; I wasn't actively looking for one, and I hadn't really given it much thought. For some reason, it got my attention.

Sometimes meaning jumps out at us from things we least expect.

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