Sixteenth Sunday B: Homily
THEME: AM I A GOOD SHEPHERD?
Objective: That each one of us may develop a caring attitude.
Today’s readings are all about shepherds and sheep. The word “shepherd” here stands for anybody with a responsibility towards others and the word “sheep” connotes people to whom service is due. Jeremiah (in 23:1-6) “complains about religious and political leaders of his time. They failed to fulfill their responsibility to guide and protect the people. He compares them to shepherds who neglect their sheep and leave them vulnerable to thieves and wild animals.” (James DiGiacomo, Sundays with Jesus, p. 71)
Today’s gospel text (Mk 6:30-34) presents Jesus as the good shepherd fulfilling God’s promise made through prophet Jeremiah (23:1-6). Here we see Jesus attending to his weary apostles, who have just returned from their first mission, while at the same time expressing his concern for the people who, like “sheep without a shepherd”, have gathered to meet him.
Jesus indirectly, criticizes religious and political leaders who do not guide people according to God’s commandments. They let the people become sheep without a shepherd.
We, religious leaders, out of human weakness, can betray people’s trust. Sometimes we are not as exemplary as expected. We are tempted to teach what people want to hear, instead of the hard truth of the Gospel.
Some political leaders dare to pass laws that contradict God’s commandments. We know there are whole nations that are run like private corporations for the enrichment of their rulers. We often hear or read about some civic officials who have misused their office and betrayed the people’s trust. Many enrich themselves at the expense of the poor. Some politicians do not want the poor to gain from governmental services. So, they leave the needy unattended.
Unlike the bad shepherds criticized by Jeremiah, Jesus, the Good Shepherd, teaches the crowd that longs to hear his word. Even when He and his apostles are tired and want to have some rest, still they tend to the vast crowd of people who are in need of his word and healing. Jesus is the predicted Shepherd, commissioned to lead people back to God, from the idols to which Israelite kings had led them.
As St. Paul teaches in the second reading (Eph 2:13-18), Jesus pulls down the walls that separate gentiles and Jews. He brings together people of different races and colors to form one family of God the Father of all, so that all may share in God’s riches. He does so not only through words but also through his death which gives us his body and blood. He proves to be the good shepherd who lays down his life for his sheep. (Jn 10:11). On the next five Sundays, as we meditate on John chapter six, we shall see how Jesus turns himself into our spiritual food. Indeed, as Psalm 23 affirms, the Lord is our shepherd, there is nothing we shall lack.
Jesus is still shepherding his flock through sacraments, reconciling us with God and with one another, uniting us in Holy Communion. He also shepherds us through each one of us. All individuals who organize liturgy, politics, laws, committees, services to the aged, the sick, and to children, whether as volunteers or employees at any place of work, are shepherding God’s people. Shepherding is service, attending to God’s people, with love, compassion and forgiveness, even when we are tired. We are working in Christ’s name, whose heart was moved and had pity on the vast crowd. Are our hearts moved with pity in our services? Do we always portray Christ’s love and compassion? Are we concerned about everybody or our own well-being?
Certainly, many of us are already good shepherds, caring for their families and the community. But there are still, for example, parents who neglect their children as regards religious matters. They say: “The children will decide for themselves when they grow up.” Which means these children may even decide to become devil worshippers or even atheists. Some parents do not gather their children for daily prayers. All these parents are like shepherds who neglect their sheep and leave them vulnerable to thieves and wild animals. If one is convinced of one’s faith, why shouldn’t one struggle to instill it in one’s children? A good parent strives to learn the faith in order to instill it in the children. Missionary activity begins among family members. Let us remember that we are here on earth to work for heaven. All the other activities are supposed to lead to heaven. Good shepherds lead people to heaven.
God will certainly reward the parents who instill religion into their children as some of you have done today, by bringing your children to attend Holy Mass. In any case, the Holy Eucharist reminds us to imitate Christ, the good shepherd. Let us be good shepherds.