There is an obvious theme in our readings today. There is mention of shepherds in our first reading, in our psalm and in our Gospel. For many of us, all we may know about shepherds may come from what we have read in the Bible, or from TV documentaries or programmes like Countryfile. Shepherds need to be dedicated, it is a life of unsocial hours, it can be quite remote from other people and can have very busy times and I would imagine there are times when the sheep almost look after themselves as well.
Our first reading has the prophet Jeremiah lambasting the kings and priests of his day; those anointed by God to look after God’s flock have strayed in their duties, they have allowed the people to turn away from God, worshipping false god’s and even allowing pagan rituals in the Holy Temple of Jerusalem. One of the key messages here is that the flock does not belong to the shepherd, it belongs to God. Notice in the words Jeremiah uses ’the flock of my pasture’, ‘the shepherds in charge of my people’, ‘my flock’. The message Jeramiah delivers promises disaster for those who have betrayed the trust God has put in them, but also the promise of raising up new shepherds to tend his flock. The promise of a ‘virtuous Branch for David’, as we know this virtuous Branch was God Incarnate; Jesus, our Saviour sent to bring all of the lost sheep back to the Father.
There is a danger that the psalm from today’s Liturgy is so familiar to us that we don’t appreciate the beauty and simplicity of the words. It is a psalm which gives us comfort, fills us with the knowledge that we are not alone, we have the Word of God to guide us along the right path and the Good Shepherd to redirect us should we stray. There is the promise of an eternal banquet for us out of reach of those who could do us harm, because we will live in the house of the Lord. As I said it is a familiar psalm for us, probably the most familiar, however, it is something which we should all make time to contemplate.
In our Gospel we can imagine the excitement of the disciples return to Jesus following their mission to announce the Good News, they have come back from anointing the sick and casting out devils; preaching repentance and a return to God. Jesus senses their excitement and like a Good Shepherd realises they need some quiet time, some “time out” to be alone with their thoughts and pray to God; putting God right back at the centre of this instead of the signs they have given through their good works. The people who had witnessed these wonders, however, would not allow the disciples or Jesus to find that quiet time, their clamour for more drove them to try to get closer to Jesus and the disciples. Jesus saw them, and he took pity on them; showing them compassion; as they were like sheep without a shepherd.
We all need to find quiet time with God, how can we do this in 2021? With technology and communication reaching almost every part of our life, how can we retain the deepest desire of our life; to stay connected to our Creator? How can we avoid becoming lost sheep? How do we ensure we stay within God’s flock and don’t venture away from the fold?
In my busyness, I can often get caught up with doing. I need to remember I am not a human doing, I am a human being. I have a busy job, in addition to being a deacon, and I love doing both. I am also a husband, a father and a grandfather and I love all of these too. All of these involve relationships, investment of time and there are only 24 hours in the day. My goal is to try and make all of these relationships work and not have my relationship with God as an add on, but to use the strength and the energy I get from the love God bestows upon me to make all of these other relationships work.
We can also see in our Gospel today the early stages of the pupils learning to be teachers. The disciples had been away on their mission and had come back together and were ‘comparing notes’. They would have been recalling what had happened on their travels, helping to build up the Kingdom. By sharing their experience of living out their faith, they helped to strengthen each other’s resolve. How often do we share our testimony with fellow Christians?
If we do not share our faith journey with others, do we look at why we choose not to? Is it because we do not want to appear to be boastful or proud? Is it because we do not see that what we do is good enough to share? Remember from the tiniest mustard seed a great tree is born. The little bit you have to share could plant a seed in someone else which can develop into something which they could never have imagined. Some of the greatest saints have found God through the words of others and the prayers of fellow Christians. Who are we to deny someone else their place in Heaven?
Please keep in your prayers
- The repose of the souls of those who have lost their lives during the recent storms, the comfort of their families and the people who have lost their homes and livelihoods.
- Those who are sick, those who are dying, the recently deceased and those who mourn.
- Those preparing to return to Mass.
- Christopher Hughes and Georgia Sillitoe who are being baptised this weekend and their parents and Godparents.
- Those preparing for ordination to the Priesthood, Diaconate and Permanent Diaconate.
- The Year of the Eucharist, which has now started, that this will lead to a fresh outpouring of love by the people of God for the Body and Blood of Christ.
- Those who have been unable to receive the Eucharist during the pandemic.