Homily (Reflection) for the Sixteenth Sunday of the Year (B) (22nd July, 2018) on the GospelJer 23:1-6;
Ps 22 (R. V. 1);
Topic: What about your Sheep?
In last Sunday’s gospel pericope, Jesus sent His disciples on apostolic work to preach. Today, we see their return and their reports. Having spent some energy preaching, Jesus deemed it necessary that they should rest. Hence, “He said to them, ‘Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while’. For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat” (Mk 6:31-32).
However, on their arrival at the designated place for rest, “... he saw a great crowd; and had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things” (Mk 6:34). It is important to know who is a shepherd and who is/are the sheep.
In the second book of Samuel we read,
Then David spoke to the LORD when he saw the angel who was smiting the people, and said, ‘Lo, I have sinned, and I have done wickedly; but these sheep, what have they done? Let thy hand, I pray thee, be against me and against my father's house’ (2Sam 24:17; cf. 1Chr 21:17).
In the same vein, we read in the Psalms that the Lord is our God, and we are the people of his pasture, and the sheep of his hand, cf. Ps 95:7. Again, he also admonishes us to “Know that the LORD is God! It is he that made us, and we are his; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture” (Ps 100:3). And through the prophet Ezekiel, God said: “And you are my sheep, the sheep of my pasture, and I am your God...” (Ezek 34:31; cf. Ps 78:52). In the gospel according to Saint John while entrusting to Saint Peter the care of the Church, Jesus used these words: “Feed my lambs”, “Tend my sheep,” and “Feed my sheep” (Jn 21:15, 16, 17).
While praying to God Moses said,
Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all fresh, appoint someone over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in; so that the congregation of the LORD may not be as sheep which have no shepherd (Num 27:17).
As we can see, the word sheep refers to much more than mere farm animals and likewise the word shepherd. And just like Saint Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians that it is obligatory for him to preach the gospel, and woe to him if he fails to preach, it is not optional for anybody in any leadership position to shepherd the flock he/she is entrusted with, cf. 1Cor 9:16.
However, in the prophet Jeremiah we read, “My people have been lost sheep; their shepherds have led them astray, turning them away on the mountains; from mountain to hill they have gone, they have forgotten their fold” (Jer 50:6). And God has these against them,
Ah, you shepherds of Israel who have been feeding yourselves! Should not shepherds feed the sheep? You eat the fat, you clothe yourselves with wool, you slaughter the fatlings; but you do not feed the sheep. You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness you have ruled them (Ezek 34:2-4).
These shepherds have left their work and were only interested in what they would get and not what they would do. And in our world today, considering what happens both in the religious and in the secular circles, many who occupy the seats of shepherds do not look different. Many religious leaders today are interested in what they will get from the flock and not in how they will tend, lead, feed, and shepherd the flock. For instance, although we preach tithes today but many do not seem to know that their duty is not just to receive tithes but very importantly to offer sacrifices for those who bring the tithes, cf. Gen 14:17-20. In the education sector, many teachers are interested in the increment and the regular payment of their salaries, other allowances, and so on and not in teaching. In politics, the more politicians’ accounts both local and international ones swell the better they see the offices they occupy. And the plights of the governed touch them only during elections. Even some parents are not interested in shepherding the children God gave them. They do not care how their children get their certificates, jobs, husbands, money, and so on. Although the examples can go on ad infinitum but I would like you to bring it down to your own area because it is very important.
Because of our failures to shepherd the sheep in our respective areas, God’s sheep are scattered, they wander over all the mountains and on every high hill and are now food for all the wild animals. And there is no one searching or seeking for them, cf. Ezek 34:5-6. This is God’s verdict on every shepherd who fails to do his/her work:
I am against the shepherds; and I will demand my sheep at their hand, and put a stop to their feeding the sheep; no longer shall the shepherds feed themselves. I will rescue my sheep from their mouths, so that they may not be food for them (Ezek 34:10).
Before entrusting to Saint Peter the work of shepherding the whole Church, Christ asked him three times whether he loves Him more than the rest, cf. Jn 21:15, 16, 17. How much a shepherd is doing and can do for the sheep entrusted to him/her is in relation to his/her love for both the sheep and the owner of the sheep. Christ the good shepherd lays down his life for us, His sheep because of His love for us, cf. Jn 10:11; 15:13; 1Jn 3:16.
The greatest problem we have today is that “both prophet and priest ply their trade throughout the land, and have no knowledge” (Jer 14:18). Hence, in today’s gospel, the great crowd were like sheep without a shepherd because those who suppose to shepherd them left them for some other things. My dear friends, What about your Sheep – are they like sheep without a shepherd or like sheep with a shepherd?
Bible Reading: Ezek 34:1-31; Jer 14:13-18; Jn 10:1-21; 21:15-17.
Thought for today: Is the sheep you are entrusted with like sheep with/out a shepherd?
Let us pray: Lord, the good Shepherd, give us the grace to be the shepherds we are called to be wherever we are – Amen.
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