Homily (Reflection) for the Sixteenth Sunday of the Year (B) (18th July, 2021) on the Gospel
Ps 22 (R. V. 1);
Topic: What about your Sheep?
In last Sunday’s gospel pericope, Jesus sent His disciples to preach. Today, we see their return and their reports. Having spent some energy preaching, Jesus deemed it necessary that they should rest.
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).
Note that the word sheep means much more than mere wild or domestic animals, cf. 2Sam 24:17; Ps 95:7; Ps 100:3; Ezek 34:31; Ps 78:52; Jn 21:15, 16, 17. In the same vein, the word shepherd does not refer to one who looks after some animals. Everyone in leadership position is a shepherd. And just like Saint Paul wrote 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.
Sadly, God laments “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 are not 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. Many preach tithes today without knowing 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 proprietors, manager, teachers, among others are interested only in their take homes and not in teaching and learning. In politics, the more politicians’ accounts both local and international ones swell the better they see the offices they occupy. 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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