Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)
1. Circumstances may have changed, but our situation today has always been similar to the situation from the beginning. Jeremiah talks of shepherd-kings who satisfied themselves of the weakness of the people. They were remiss of their responsibilities and scattered the people till they were exiled to Babylon. Few centuries later Jesus sees the crowds of Galileans that flocked around Him to hear his Words of truth and salvation as “sheep without a shepherd.” In their society, they were considered sheep, because they knew little or nothing about the law.
There were also frustrated shepherds who failed in the task entrusted to them. They did not proclaim the Word of God. They prophesied only their own words. Equally, among the priests and leaders there were some who led their sheep astray with their bad examples.
A generation without good shepherds lives in a state of confusion. A generation with leaders who are not real shepherds falls prey to lack of confidence in authority, experiences the anguish of disorder, wraps itself up in subjectivism that is dreadful and devoid of unity. Every generation urgently needs shepherds who are witnesses, who with their lives show the right way, temporal as well as spiritual.
God presented himself as the Shepherd of the sheep of Judah. This image of God as Shepherd is reflected in Jesus Christ. “Like sheep without a shepherd” is an accurate description of many in the world today: directionless, helpless, voiceless, and very vulnerable to the seductions and attacks of the evil one. Jesus showed His compassion on the sick, those possessed by the devil, those in danger, the slaves of sin, and the abandoned. He tells us to be compassionate as the Father is compassionate.
2. Jesus is the Good Shepherd who continues to lead His sheep to green pastures and fresh waters. He shows this in the following:
a) His institution of the Church. This is His own Body that continues to be the life and the institution that protects all His teachings for the salvation of all. And we are the people that comprise the Church.
b) His institution of the Sacraments. They are the means that Jesus instituted to sustain us in the Church and to remain in Him. Without the Sacraments the Church will not survive in this world.
c) His institution of the Priesthood. This was instituted by Jesus so that all the graces that He would give to all for their salvation would be dispensed by and through the priests. When we celebrated the Year of Priests we celebrated the Priesthood of Jesus in us and helped in varied ways in the sanctification of priests and the lay faithful. Despite the difficulties and scandals caused by some priests, the Church courageously proclaims the holiness of the Priesthood of Jesus manifested in the life of the many faithful priests, and asks us all to pray for all priests.
3. When children achieve some success or are hurt, they run to their mother (or father), who assures them of support and joy, or kisses away the hurt. So, “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” (Mk 6:30-31). People followed them and Jesus was moved with pity and taught them. Jesus teaches us that:
a) Life is a cycle of prayer (silence) – activity – prayer. Many people today work only for money. Many spend hours in front of the television at the expense of time for prayer, study or relationship. Only in solitude with God can we learn His compassion, gain wisdom to follow Him in this unruly world and gain strength when we return to our responsibilities and relationships. Pope Benedict XVI says: One who prays is not afraid; one who prays is never alone; one who prays is saved!” (Wednesday audience, 1 July 2009).
b) Time is given to us, not for selfish reasons, but to bring hope to others through teaching, serving and living out our faith. We cannot abuse our time by squandering it in useless activities.
c) People who come into our life are not accidents, but means to bring them close to Jesus. They are not instruments to take advantage of. They are an opportunity to grow in holiness.
The fact the we are gathered here to celebrate the Eucharist shows that we are looking for someone greater than us, One who can save us. Jesus is our Good Shepherd, our pasture and our food.