The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
In the hope that you will enter more fully into the Mass
HIS HEART WAS MOVED WITH PITY FOR THEM, FOR THEY WERE LIKE SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD.
This Sunday's scripture readings are all about shepherds - good ones and bad ones. God promised that he himself will shepherd his people Israel and raise up an heir to the throne of David who will reign as a righteous king.
In our first reading (Jeremiah 23:1-6), the prophet chastised the weak and sinful kings (shepherds) of his day for scattering their flocks and then speaks on behalf of God as he promises a righteous shoot from David will reign as king and Israel shall dwell in security. This messianic prophesy is fulfilled by Jesus as we will hear in today's Gospel.
Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: "The LORD our justice."
In our Gospel reading (Mark 6:30-34), the twelve apostles return from their mission elated but exhausted (see last Sunday's Gospel). Jesus takes them to a deserted place to rest but the crowd follows. Jesus reveals himself as the faithful shepherd of the new Israel as he is moved with pity for them. He began to teach them many things. In the next passage that follows this, Jesus will feed the five thousand with just five loaves and two fish.
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
In our Epistle reading (Ephesians 2:13-18), St. Paul tells the Gentile Ephesian community that through the blood of Christ, the dividing wall has been broken down. They and the Jews have been united into one people; just as God had promised in our first reading, God has "gathered the remnant of his flock".
Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.
Again, lest we think that this talk about shepherds of old does not concern us, we should keep in mind that we are all shepherds in some way - either for our family, our friends, or those in our care or charge. We are blessed to have the apostles and Jesus himself as our models. May we live up to our calling.
- Click HERE to read and reflect on the readings for, Sunday, July 22