July 22, 2018 Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 JER 23:1-6

Responsorial Psalm PS 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Reading 2EPH 2:13-18

Alleluia JN 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
Gospel MK 6:30-34

Homily—July 21 & 22, 2018

Today’s selection from Jeremiah offers a comparatively gentle take on a topic that Ezekiel ranted about in chapter 34:  shepherd (kings or priests) who use their office to serve themselves. They are the opposite of who they are called to be as the agents of God’s loving care.  Those of you not in church leadership may be tempted to take this reading as an invitation to play “pin the blame on the leaders.” There certainly is a time when you should raise your voices in protest against injustice, incompetency or apathy on the part of leadership.  As members of the body of Christ we all have the responsibility to call one another to fulfill the demands of our vocation, but we must beware of the danger of allowing fraternal correction to degrade into unproductive grumbling, gossip or retaliation.

One of my goals has always been to be a servant leader who strives to be a Christ-like friend.   I try to stay busy but there is always time to share with anyone in need.

The second reading is addressed to all who call themselves Christians, who believe they have been saved by the blood of Christ.  We are then claiming an identity that is not based on anything we have done or accomplished, nor on any accident of birth or ethnic or class heritage.  Our Christian identity comes solely from accepting the invitation of Christ who wishes to create a new humanity in himself.

We become a new person by dying to self and becoming a new person, reconciled with God and with one another.  It’s a process that happens in imitation of Christ who emptied himself to take on the condition of the beloved, only whereas Christ took on the condition of a slave, Christians are invited to empty themselves to take on the very fullness of God.  

In the Gospel passage, Mark tells us that the “apostles” gathered with Jesus.  This is the only time in Mark’s Gospel that disciples are called apostles. The disciples have just come back from their mission and Jesus invites them to go with him to a deserted place to rest.  By all indications, it seems they have been successful and are now excitedly telling Jesus about all their experiences. Jesus invitation to rest should not surprise us. We know from the psalmist that this is what the Lord does.  He gives us repose in verdant pastures or by restful waters so we can refresh our souls.

St. Anselm wrote “Come now, turn aside for a while from your daily employment, escape for a moment from the tumult of your thoughts.  Put aside your weighty cares, let your burdensome distractions wait, free yourself awhile for God and rest awhile in him. Enter the inner chamber of your soul, shut out everything except God and that which can help you in seeking him; and when you have shut the door, seek him.”

The “deserted place” can be a physical place of solitude; or it can be time we set aside to realize God’s presence and feel grateful for God’s grace.  Our spirits need quiet deserts and a sacred time to escape the demands of our calendars and “to-do” lists to experience God’s peace, listen to God’s voice in the quiet of our hearts, and realize God’s presence in our lives in the love of family and friends. Jesus invites us to find spaces of prayer and make quiet time in our days to re-center our lives in the grace of God, to hear again the voice of Christ the Shepherd calling us to lives of joyful gratitude and fulfilling service.

The “deserted place” for us could be the Arboretum, the Riverwalk, the Mines of Spain, Swiss Valley, Eagle Point Park, the Power of Prayer Chapel, the Rosary Garden, our church to name a few places to reflect and pray to the Lord.

The most telling sentence of this Gospel says that when Jesus saw the people looking for him “his heart was moved with pity. . . for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

The word translated as pity means that Jesus’ guts were wrenched as he saw them.  This is like the feeling of parents who see their child in real pain. The people’s hunger, their heartfelt search, their longing for more, called Jesus forth.  He allowed their need to turn him into a shepherd.

That was Jesus’ lesson for the disciples.  Beyond anything words could explain, they saw how he identified with the needs that appeared before him.  He was showing his followers that if they wanted to carry forth his mission, they had to feel the real needs of the people.  Only then would they know what they had to offer. What do you have to offer for God’s mission this week?


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