16th Ordinary Sunday




16th Ordinary Sunday                                Mk 6:30-34

Today we begin with the prophet Jeremiah six hundred years before the arrival of Jesus. Jeremiah was called to his prophetic duties at the age of 23 in Jerusalem. At that time kings, priests and the people of Israel were much more interested in politics than in Yahweh, their God. Jeremiah is told to give them this message: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the sheep of my pasture! — Says the Lord.” A message very applicable to Christ’s Church today and forever. Jeremiah foretells the destruction of the city and the Temple. For passing the word of the Lord, Jeremiah was then imprisoned, but that was not enough for the people and they subsequently tried to kill him by throwing him in a cistern. But he was released quietly by a servant of the king; yet ultimately, he was taken to Egypt where he was murdered. 

In this short passage, Jeremiah gives dire threats against the shepherds, the religious leaders of the Chosen People. Their neglect of the flock, who were under their care, and their neglect of God will bring about catastrophic results. It is said that history repeats itself, and as a minister of the Church I am afraid that God will repeat punishments for us in the 21st century; due to similar situations with some of our own shepherds. 

The Psalm, added by the Church, for the liturgy is appropriately Psalm 23: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” The Lord’s promise through Jeremiah: “I myself will gather my flock; come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Beside restful waters he leads us. Jesus is the restful waters.

In this short gospel St. Mark strongly portrays the compassion, the human understanding of Jesus for mankind. When the Apostles returned from their mission, they were excited and in awe by the powers given them by the Messiah. They had worked hard.While they were gone Jesus, now alone, continued his healing and teaching also worked hard. Therefore he had planned that he and his apostles should go to a place at a corner of the Sea of Galilee where they would not be disturbed. For the workers of the vineyard deserved their rest.

The desire of the crowds, however, was exceptional and surprising to the Lord. They wanted to see him and hear him speak thus upsetting his plans of rest. The crowds got to the quiet spot before them. There they were waiting as the boat was pulled ashore. Jesus could have sent them away, but his human compassion overtook him. He looked upon these simple people of Galilee anxious to hear about God and his mercy so Jesus let them stay and continued his preaching of the good news. He knew they had no one to teach them about God, the rabbis and theologians were all in Jerusalem and they would never pay much attention to this gathering of rabble. They were for Jesus, “like sheep without a shepherd” wandering about half-lost. Therefore, he was moved to surrender his rest as well as that of his apostles. 

The people of Galilee were not saints, they were ordinary run-of-the-mill citizens, as a group they were not religious people. They were cheaters, they were often uncharitable, they did not always live chaste and pure lives. They prayed the prayer that was taught them when they were children but didn’t understand the meaning of their prayer. Yet, our Lord had compassion on them. These were the sinners he came to teach and to save. This pity and love shown by the Lord should give us confidence and encouragement. 

For Christ has not changed: he is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has the same compassion for us that he had for those Galileans; there are many today, even Catholics, who are often like sheep without a shepherd, wandering, confused and frustrated with life. We, his disciples, must seek out these lost sheep and teach them. And say to these sheep, “Do not be afraid!” Christ has given to his Church the holy sacraments of baptism and penance in which he guarantees us complete and entire remission of all past sins, if we receive these sacraments in faith and true sorrow. — Christ is King Amen.