16th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year B (2021): Jer 23:1-6; Ps 23; Mk 6:30-34
Sunday, July 18, 2021
As I pray that I will one day be with the Lord in heaven, among the many opportunities to spending eternity with God and the saints is to seek out the 4 Evangelists and thank them for filling the Gospels with stories that revealed both the Divinity and Sacred Humanity of Jesus.
Raising the dead, healing the sick, driving out demons, each of these acts of Jesus revealed that He is God, always and forever. When he shed tears when Lazarus died, had compassion for the crowds, and invited the Apostles to come away to a deserted place to rest for a while, the Gospels writers showed His sacred humanity, in the ways he showed emotion, cared for others and recognized that He was in need of rest to be refreshed from the arduous works he undertook.
In showing us both his divinity and humanity, he revealed that He was the Good Shepherd and that He wanted all who followed after Him to become shepherds after his own Sacred Heart. Notably, he wanted to give his shepherds all the tools they would need to imitate him. Among the most important words of advice, he gave to them was precisely to come away to a deserted place and rest a while.
If the Apostles were going to shepherd others, they needed to humbly recognize they needed times to retreat from their work, to take refuge in the Lord, to become refreshed, to REST, and once replenished return to the work set out for them, being like Jesus in seeing the great crowds before them, to have compassion for them, that is to which to suffer with them, and teach in the spirit and generosity of Jesus.
The Bible has a lot of say both the quality of shepherds, that is, those in charge of leadership, in the political, religious, familial and work realms.
Jeremiah today tells us of the call of God, given to many of the prophets, in both the past, present and into the future, to rebuke the shepherds of Israel, and every type of shepherds throughout the ages, that is kings and prime ministers, Old and New Testament priests, tribal and municipal leaders, the heads of households, the heads of caravans and merchant guilds and multinational corporations, that is, the entire plethora of shepherds in various walks of life, to repent of the ways they have failed to lead as they should.
Jeremiah’s call to be good shepherds speaks of the many leadership positions present in the world, from the basic family unit of parents caring for their children, to business leaders being just and transparent to their employees, to teachers guiding their students with generosity and understanding, to religious ministers serving with humility and accountability, to political leaders, locally and globally, being leaders of change, sustainability and courageous decision making.
There are many reasons where shepherds can go astray, but might we underestimate that often the source of good shepherds turning bad is in part due to the fact that they do not know how to take that time to be in a quiet place, to rest, to be replenished and reinspired to lead again!
Sadly, when shepherds become worn out, when in their pride they fail to take time to rest or when their rest is unhealthy and not rooted in reaching out to God for true refreshment, then often shepherds can turn into wolves and in their exhaustion begin to devour those they are called to care for.
Now it would be foolish to say this is the sole reason why shepherds turn into wolves, but it would wise for us to heed the Lord advise today why it is necessary for any shepherd, that is, anyone in a position of leadership, both great and small, take proper rest to be renewed in the Lord and have your heart reawaken to return back to your work with a reinvigorated sense of caring for others and showing compassion.
To some degree, each of us is a shepherd to others, thus we need to look inward today and ask a simple but important question: Do I take the necessary time to rest, and most importantly, to rest with God in prayer, to be renewed and strengthened to care for those I have been called to serve? And after we ask this personal question, do we also feel the courage to reach out to others whom we know to be shepherds in their own context, and if we can see they are worn out and beginning to harm their flock, can we invite them to rest more intentionally and return to God for strength?
Summers in Canada give us the wonderful chance to spend those quiet twilight hours resting in the Lord. May we take advantage of this wonderful season in our country to be renewed in compassion, and as the psalmist tells us, to spiritually or literally lied down in green pastures, beside still waters and experience restoration in the soul.
In Jesus through Mary, Fr. Nathan