Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 18
May Each of Us Become Christ-like Examples of Love and Charity in Service to One Another, So That One Day We May All Be Sheep of One Fold, Members of God’s Family Who Recognize and Hear the Voice of Our One True Shepherd.
“His heart was moved with pity for them for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” – words which we read in today’s Gospel, words which stir us into a deeper understanding of the very depths of our Lord’s loving compassion for His children.
I have written about cults before, groups of people who share, in common, religious or spiritual beliefs. There are some within a major ecclesial setting, such as an international Church or denomination, which are spiritually beneficial, and some outside of ecclesiastical boundaries which are far from holy. Today, I would like to revisit the idea of cults, in light of what we find in our First Reading today.
I am sure that many of us are aware, to one degree or another, of the stories about the different cults which have cropped up in the past, and some which still exist today – the gatherings of entire families who were starving for spiritual nourishment, innocent men and women who hung on the every word spoken by some charismatic leader, who knew how to feed their hunger with words of hope, words of encouragement.
So that I am not misunderstood in addressing the idea of cults, far be from me to give credence to any cults which are questionable in nature, for many have ended in disaster. And the ones that come readily to mind, which I have mentioned before, are Jim Jones and the Jonestown massacre and David Koresh and the Branch Davidian sect which ended in death in Waco, Texas. And, there are many others too numerous to mention, which also ended very sadly.
With all this in mind, God speaks to the prophet Jeremiah in our First Reading today, “‘Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture’, says the LORD.”
Not only do we see God’s children being misled in our present day and age, but it has been sadly happening throughout the millennia – men who would claim to be speaking in the name of God, but, all along, would be misleading their followers through their inaccurate and distorted teachings of the truth.
And such distortions, which are nothing more than lies, exaggerations and fabrications, would be sold in such a fashion that divisions among the faithful would be created, whereby the innocent would be swayed from God’s Truth, as if listening to a highly trained “snake-oil” salesman.
And these imposters – albeit in many cases, I am sure, very charismatic – would peddle their poison on the unsuspecting and the weak, followers who held in common a deep-seated desire, an overwhelming hunger to reach out and touch the Divine.
Even though these followers were terribly misled by those who claimed to be prophets, seers and messiahs, these men and women, many whom I am sure were innocent victims, were “like sheep without a shepherd” – wandering, searching for anything which would satisfy their spiritual hunger.
And, in speaking about their leaders in our First Reading, God says, “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them…”
And sadly, we see this happening in our Church today by certain members of the clergy and religious communities who have chosen to embrace a different truth which does NOT come from God, a lie which is deceptively sown in the hearts of God’s children, and which, in turn, lead many astray.
I am sure that our Lord is saddened at those who are misled in every generation. And such was the case when our Lord walked amongst us some two thousand years ago, for they, too, were hungry – a hunger which could only be fed and nourished by God’s Truth – for they, too, felt the need to reach out and touch the Divine.
And the Gospel tells us today, “At the sight of the crowds, [Jesus’] heart was moved with pity for them…”
For each of us who have been touched by God’s gift of faith, and for those of us who have chosen to embrace this gift – a gift freely offered and freely given by a God who loves each one of us beyond any form of adequate human description – we are not unlike the vast crowd in today’s Gospel who would follow Jesus, no matter where He went, in order to be nourished by His words of Truth.
We, too, like them, wish to reach out and touch the Divine. We, too, like those we read about in today’s Scriptures, do not wish to be left alone. We, too, wish to be fed and nourished by God Himself! But, unlike the Jewish people who were following Jesus two thousand years ago, today we recognize the gift of Jesus Christ for who He truly IS and what He truly offers.
We have come to know and believe that Jesus Christ is the Eternal Word made flesh, the Only-Begotten Son of the Eternal Father, and He has taught us that our God is a God of Love. He is a God who only wishes to fill us with His peace. He is a God who desires that we return His Love, in such a way that we place Him first and foremost in our everyday lives, placing into practice and living His teachings here on this side of the eternal – thereby insuring our eternal life at His side in His Eternal and Heavenly Kingdom.
And it is in our knowledge of who our God is that gives us comfort. It is in our knowledge of who our God is that gives us peace. This knowledge gives us joy. But, most importantly, it gives us hope – a hope which sustains us, a hope which strengthens us on our journey through this life.
That is why Christians find such comfort in the Twenty-third Psalm which we pray in today’s Responsorial –
“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.”
And it is this faith, which we hold so dear to our hearts, which also strengthened and sustained Saint Paul in all his missionary journeys, reaching out and feeding the Gentile peoples who were also hungering for God’s Truth.
In today’s Second Reading, he writes to the Church in Ephesus, “In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”
And it is God’s Spirit, by virtue of our Baptism into the Life, Death and Resurrection of Jesus Christ, who calls us to live this faith with which we have been blessed, and to give witness to God’s Truth. No matter what our station in life may be, the Spirit calls us to be extensions of Christ in the world, to be holy examples for others to see and follow, even if our efforts only impact one soul at a time.
God does not expect each of us to do great things. He does not expect us to be missionary evangelists like Paul was, reaching out to make a difference in the world. But with what He HAS given us, and with the gifts and responsibilities which we have been blessed, God DOES expect us to do the best we are able.
And it was Saint Mother Theresa of Calcutta herself who once said, “We cannot do great things on this Earth, only small things with great love.”
May each of us, with a selfless love and a truly selfless giving of ourselves, serve the Lord, and each of His children whom He has placed in our lives, with an open heart and a willing soul, so that we may help His Kingdom grow here on Earth, as it is in Heaven.
And may each of us become Christ-like examples of love and charity in service to one another; so that, one day, we may all be sheep of one fold, members of God’s family who recognize and hear the voice of our One True Shepherd, Christ Jesus, who, by freely laying down His life for each of us, has taught us the very nature of True Love, a Love which fills the very Heart of God for each and every one of His children!
May God bless you, God love you, and may God always keep you. †
Please Comment, Like and Share, and Suggest to your Facebook friends – to spread the message of God’s Merciful Love.
Por favor Comente, Le Gusta y Comparta, y Sugiera a tus amigos en Facebook – en difundir el mensaje del Misericordioso Amor de Dios.
Scripture for the Day
- “‘Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the flock of my pasture’, says the LORD.” (Jeremiah 23:1)
- “‘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.’” (Jeremiah 23:2)
- “For you had gone astray like sheep, but you have now returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.” (1 Peter 2:25)
- “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.” (Mark 6:33)
- “When [Jesus] 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.” (Mark 6:34)
- “The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul…Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and your staff comfort me.” (Psalm 23:1-3a, 4)
- “…in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace…He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” (Ephesians 2:13-14a, 17-18)
- “Like a shepherd he feeds his flock; in his arms he gathers the lambs, carrying them in his bosom, leading the ewes with care.” (Isaiah 40:11)
- “I am the good shepherd, and I know mine and mine know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I will lay down my life for the sheep.” (John 10:14-15)
- “…they will hear my voice, and there will be one flock, one shepherd.” (John 10:16cd)
Prayer for the Day
“Precious Blood and Eternal Word of God,Anonymous
You are my eternal salvation.
Lost in sin, You sought me out and found me;
You lifted me from the bottomless pit of perdition;
You liberated me from the darkness in which I was wandering.
“Treasuring my feeble soul,
You excused my constant frailties.
Forever, I am indebted to Your Mercy.
Your cost can never be repaid,
For You bought my freedom with Your own Blood;
You are my Shepherd who keeps me close to Your Heart.
“Most Holy and Incarnate Wisdom,
I will always seek You out my Lord.
For You are the Eternal Gatekeeper who ensures my safety!
You are my beloved Deliverer!
You are the Lamb of God!
“You, Jesus, are my most intimate Friend and Brother!
In You alone, Lord, do I fine my eternal peace and salvation. Amen.”