THE 1st BIBLICAL READING & Gospel FOR THE 16th SUNDAY,
YEAR B in ORDINARY TIME.
FOLLOWED BY A REALHOMILIE FROM FR.KEVIN WALSH.
The Lord promises to shepherd his people Israel.
Woe to the shepherds
who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,
says the LORD.
Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel,
against the shepherds who shepherd my people:
You have scattered my sheep and driven them away.
You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds.
I myself will gather the remnant of my flock
from all the lands to which I have driven them
and bring them back to their meadow;
there they shall increase and multiply.
I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them
so that they need no longer fear and tremble;
and none shall be missing, says the LORD.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,
when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;
as king he shall reign and govern wisely,
he shall do what is just and right in the land.
In his days Judah shall be saved,
Israel shall dwell in security.
This is the name they give him:
“The LORD our justice.”
Jesus invites his disciples to rest after their ministry, and Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds who pursue them.
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.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
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.
A REALHOMILIE FROM FR.KEVIN WALSH, SYDNEY AUSTRALIA
Have you ever been in a situation at work, or in some leadership position, and some results needed to be shared with a wider group? Sometimes, the person delivering the message for all to hear, might say, “Would you like to hear the good news or the bad news first?” Maybe, you have been the recipient of this kind of News Flash! For me, that has happened lots of times especially while I was at school. I was not your typical ‘good boy’….I got up to lots of mischief! As a rule of thumb, I have always asked for the bad new first, so that after it has been told, it has to get better…..
This week in the first Reading from the Old Testament Prophet, Jeremiah, he tells not only the Religious leaders, but the people as well, the BAD NEWS! Followed by the GOOD NEWS. Poor Jeremiah, told it as it was, without any sweet words! From our own lives that can be tuff, and the response can be sometimes aggressive, especially towards the clarion caller! Jeremiah copped all the criticism and aggression that could possibly have been dished out to him…..Religious Leaders and People! Why???? Because the Word of the Lord spoken through Jeremiah, cut to the quick, and he did not beat around the bush in making known the Lord God’s message! Now, for our overseas readers, you might be a bit puzzled by something that I have just said…..’ (He did not beat around the bush) In Aussie language that means, he did not gloss over the message, nor go on and on, trying to make it politically correct, as we so often have to do these days, or we would easily end up in Court!)
In his digesting of God’s Word, and then proclaiming it; Jeremiah hit the bulls-eye! (In a game of darts, the bulls-eye is the small centre circle on the dart board.) So what was the problem? God’s people were scattered, leadership among them was very poor, and political gains with other Countries nearby, was really the end goal! The lack of leadership from the Shepherds was primarily a farce! Their own power and superiority, spoke of an elite group who used their people’s resources for their own ends, and arrogantly marched on to their own objectives without a smack of contrition in their hearts, for those that they had left abandoned!
Now for the GOOD NEWS! A message of hope! Someone in the future, filled with the Spirit and zeal of the Lord God’s Mission will gather the scattered people from all places, and new and upright shepherds will be appointed. There will be a ‘faithful few’ or another Biblical name for them is: ‘the poor of the Lord God’, who will hear the distinctive caring and compassionate voice of the authentic Shepherds, and will listen to them and trustfully return to the fold.
OK, where does all this leave us? What is God’s evergreen Word saying to us today? Do we think that ‘Oh well, that was Old Testament times, so it could not be like that today?’ Or does some of this proclamation from Jeremiah ring a bell with us for today? This is where we begin to tread on very sensitive ground…..what comes immediately to my mind is, the Gospel request from the Lord himself…’They who are without sin, cast the first stone….’ That shuts me up straight away……or should it? I have a feeling that most of us would close our mouths, and not saying anything to our present day Shepherds in the Church, because of that Gospel request from Jesus…..but there is something else within the church these days, and has been around for a long time, namely…..the notion of:-’Let’s not rock the boat’ or if we rock the boat, and we are in a position of Christian leadership ourselves, we will somehow be silenced by the Bishop, or be warned by the Bishop, or be moved from the Parish to a more difficult one….and even worse, have our Sacramental faculties withdrawn… Is there any forum within God’s people to review not only the Ministry of the Shepherds, but the Ministry of all of the Baptised and Confirmed and sharers at the Table of the Lord? The short answer is, not really!
However, within some Religious Orders, during their Provincial or General Chapters, they do have a way of listening and speaking and sharing, which can bring about a change of attitude, a change of direction, and a more humble and loving missionary outreach. The greatest obstacle would be arrogance! Unless we as a Church, can Review ourselves, within the light of the Gospel, how can anyone presume to: ‘Speak the truth in love’, without first LISTENING to the truth in humility? Where can we start talking and reviewing? It would seem to me that we start with ourselves……enabling and being open to the Holy Spirit; to be truthful and authentic in our personal review of life. This then can spread to reviewing our lives in the light of the Gospel in our Family…..a time, when the TV is turned off, Mobile phones are turned off, and computers are shut down, and we share, listen and perhaps change our attitudes as well as marking out some short term and long term goals within our Christian lives.
Now you might be thinking, well that is a good idea, but how do we do it? I go for simple methods first, and I will include a section at the end of this realhomilie called AN EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE…..and let’s see how we go with that, as a guide for change! In our Parish Communities, with the assistance of the Priest, and the Parish Council, General Meeting days for Review and Grace could will be organised, so that people could gather in small groups, share on a Review of Life agenda, and then feedback their ideas in a well organised plenary session. On a Diocesan level, this method could also be used after solid preparation had been done, to gather a Synod of representatives from all the Parishes, and together with their local Bishop, be open to hear the BAD NEWS and THE GOOD NEWS! Then forward planning from there. If any Diocesan or Religious Leader was too scared to enter into this process, we would know immediately where the problem lies! Action must proceed. Every Baptised Christian is entitled to SEE, JUDGE AND ACT, either by themselves, or with others, for the ongoing Mission of the Lord. God’s speaks to all of us, even to Shepherds and carers of Sycamore Trees, like the Prophet Amos in last Sunday’s first Reading. Amos did not have a B.Theol! He was an ordinary person who was seized by God’s Word and love, and he could not contain it….he was impelled to speak it, even though his reception from the Religious authorities was dreadful! In this Sunday’s First Reading, Jeremiah was also seized by the Lord God, and he could not contain God’s Word…..this capture by the Lord God, almost got him killed many times, because the message of the Lord God went right to the quick!
Do we see anyone like Jeremiah in our world today? The answer is YES! Millions of them, in their own ways as quiet achievers. In Pope Francis; he is so much like an Old Testament Prophet, and we have seen him in action, especially in talking to his Shepherds, and warning them to stay simple and not to given in to the temptation of Clerical Careers! There are also many Bishops, Priests, Religious and People who live and have their being in Christ’s love…..they too, often get side lined, silenced, and metaphorically carved up! We sometimes hear their cries in the wilderness, and we must support them, encourage them, and love them. The Mission given to Jeremiah is still being given by the Lord God today, to very ordinary people, and will continue to do so till the end of time…..
Today’s gospel is a little gem, because it gives us another glimpse of the compassion, thoughtfulness, and unselfishness of Jesus. It is wonderful to see Jesus in action at close range, as it were.
There are various times in our lives when we experience all the emotions of today’s gospel. There are happy times, when we have achieved something, and are grateful. There are times when we are exhausted, and we just need to get away on own for a while. And then there are times when we feel lost, separated, and very scattered. Put Jesus in those situations, and you have today’s gospel.
It may sound strange, but because we have all received a formal education at School, TAFE or University, we could easily be the ones who fail to understand the real meaning of Our Lord’s teaching. We could confuse it with classes or lectures, with reading, study, assignments and academic exercises. That is not the kind of Teacher Jesus is. His teaching is a gentle, quiet revelation within our hearts. Jesus is the human face of the Father! Revelation means to lift the veil off something, and show what is underneath. There is something within all of us that rises to the surface when The Word is addressed to us through the Biblical Scriptures, the community and within the Sacramental life of our Parish and Mission. When we reflect on it, we see clearly that the Lord has what we want, and what we need. We can easily get distracted, and forget that fact, and that often leads us into depression, lack of hope and negativity and a feeling of being scattered!
We can be sheep without a shepherd if we so choose. Jesus offers us himself as our shepherd, and he asks us to follow him. Just as an Israelite shepherd leads his sheep out of a cave or shed each morning, to wander off in search of food, so must our decision to follow him be renewed with each waking day. ‘They who follow me shall not walk in darkness, but shall have the light of life’. The decision and the choices are ours, right here, right now. This is one area where decisions cannot be left ‘till some other time’. There is nothing more powerful than an idea whose time has come’.
Lord, look upon us and take pity on us,
For at times we too are like sheep.
Save us from a blind following of the herd.
Help us to listen to your voice,
To trust you and to follow you,
Even if it means leaving the crowd
And walking a lonely path.
Lead us from fear to trust,
From error to truth,
From hate to love, from war to peace,
From despair to hope, and from death to life. AMEN.
EXAMINATION OF CONSCIENCE:
For whom should you love and show concern?
Jesus says, ‘When you give a party do not invite your friends who will invite you in return. Invite those from whom you can expect nothing in return. Then you will have a reward in heaven.’
If you are offering a gift to God and suddenly you remember that you have offended someone, what should you do?
Jesus says, ‘Leave your gift there. Go and be reconciled with the person you have offended. Then come back and offer your gift to God and it will be acceptable to him’.
If someone treats you badly, how should you react?
Jesus says,’ Do not retaliate. Do not return evil for evil. Pray for those who persecute you and who make life difficult for you. Do not try to overcome evil by resorting to evil. Evil can be overcome only by good’.
Who is the greatest, the person who sits in the place of honour at the top table, or the waiter?
Jesus says, ‘The one who serves is the greatest. Those who put the needs of others before their own are the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.’
Who gives the most in the collection for the poor? The wealthy person who puts in $10, or the poor one who puts in lOc?
Jesus says, ‘the poor person who puts in lOc. A sacrifice is judged, not by the amount given, but by the cost to the giver’.
What is God like, and how does he deal with us?
Jesus says,’ God loves and treats everybody with compassion. There is joy in heaven when even one sinner comes back to him’.
Who is my neighbour?
Jesus says. ‘Your neighbour is anyone who needs your help, regardless of class, or creed, or race, or nation’.
Who is the person blessed by God?
Jesus says, ‘The one who is truly blessed by God is the person who knows that no matter how much they own, they are always poor before God, and who therefore puts their trust in God rather than in money’.
Who is the fortunate one?
Jesus says, ‘The one who is honest, and truthful and just in all their dealings. If one makes enemies, and if people try to discredit them, let them rejoice. They are in good company. That is how all-true prophets have been treated’.