16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)


16th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B) Mk 6: 30-34 Jul 22, 2018

“Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd”.

Once I was visiting for the first time a city. I wanted to visit my friend priests, but I did not know the way to get to their place. Nobody seemed to be available to give me directions, except this man who was fixing his car in front of his house. So I asked him how to get to Saint Francis Church. Even though he was very busy, he stopped his work immediately and walked me right to the entrance of the church.

Each one who has being working hard deserves a break, a time of vacation to relax and renovate new strengths. Jesus is very human and understanding; he has sent his twelve apostles two by two to preach repentance. When they return from their mission, Jesus and his apostles must have been exhausted after that experience. Even Jesus used to take a few days off, but not only to vacation, but to be in quiet prayer.

When we read Mark´s Gospel we are aware to the pressure that surrounds Jesus in his ministry. Today´s Gospel gives us a good picture of that situation. After their first missionary travel the disciples are invited by Jesus to evaluate their accomplishments and take a rest. But “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.”

Mark tells us, “They 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.´” With this in mind, they left with Jesus in a boat to a deserted place. The Gospel continues, “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.”

At the time of Jeremiah and most of the prophets, the religious leaders of Israel were corrupt and negligent. As the prophet looks to the future, he speaks of a messianic time of restoration, when the careless shepherds who had deprived of guidance the people and had mistreated them, would be replaced by a sensitive shepherd king, “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock (…) I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble.” Jeremiah calls that king, “The Lord our justice.”

Jesus fulfils Jeremiah´s prophecy. He stops the plan he had to go away to a deserted place and rest; he starts at once teaching and caring for his flock. We may be willing to serve others but under certain conditions, normally on our own terms; we think they should respect our agenda. Today Jesus gives us a pastoral lesson putting aside his plans for his concern for others. While we do not like to be taken out of base in our busy life, the needs of people going like sheep without a shepherd demand for us to be Christ-like flexible and open to them.

Our Church, our family, and our society need good leaders and shepherds. Saint Paul teaches us in his Letter to the Ephesians that a leader should unite people in love, as Jesus who “Broke down the dividing wall of enmity (…) that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God.”

Our Responsorial Psalm, Psalm 23, the most popular of psalms, echoes today's first reading and Gospel, and speaks about the shepherd promised by God Himself. The Lord is my shepherd. God wants to direct our lives. Jesus feels bad for the people, in today's Gospel because they had no one to shepherd them. He also cares for us today. We need a shepherd to direct us, and that one is the Lord our shepherd. He guides us with his rod and staff. We are comforted with knowing that whatever happens, the Lord is in charge. He will take care of us.  Psalm 23 concludes with the great promise: Live united to the Lord and you will experience his goodness and kindness in this life and with him in the next life. Indeed we shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever.

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