Thursday, July 15, 2021

HOMILY – 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – The Good Shepherd


There was a much read news story this week about a firebrand priest in Wisconsin formally suspended from public ministry for using divisive language in his sermons and news interviews.

This controversial priest “flouted COVID-19 protocols at the height of the pandemic, derided liberals as ‘left-wing fascist Nazis’ and warned that Catholics who support the Democratic Party could ‘face the fires of hell.’" [1]

“According to a new decree issued by (his Bishop), (the priest) is only allowed to celebrate Mass in private and is barred from preaching. He has also been instructed to take a 30-day spiritual retreat to ‘give him the possibility to spiritually heal and recharge and address the issues that caused the issuance of this decree.’”[2]

Today’s Gospel message is an ancient story about leadership. It has a warning for all followers of the Good Shepherd about how we are to conduct ourselves in the mission of Christ. 

The Mission of the Twelve is complete. The apostles are eager to tell Jesus about their many experiences driving out demons, healing the sick and proclaiming the good news. After hearing their stories, Jesus attempts to take them all to a private place to rest and reflect.

But the crowds start following them. Jesus and his disciples cannot get a moment’s rest as they attempt to retreat to a deserted location with Jesus.

Notice here that Jesus does not get angry at the crowds. Quite the opposite. He is moved with pity for them. He surrenders to their needs and begins to teach them.

No doubt this causes some consternation with the Twelve.

“Doesn’t he care about us?”

Don’t we all feel this way sometimes when our needs are not the focus of others?          

These feelings are what it means to be human.

Today’s Gospel message calls us to change our perspective when whenever we experience these feelings: to become “other” focus and not be “me” focused. To learn to serve the needs others, and not our own.

When we do this, something happens to us. We are transformed by the love of Christ and we see the world through the eyes of Christ.

But at the same time, we all need to learn to say “no” and discern what we have the energy to do in ministry or where the Spirit is calling us to spend our time and talents. This is where a healthy prayer life can be most beneficial.

From his book “Come Follow Me,” our Auxiliary Bishop Daniel Mueggenborg shared this insight into today’s reading:

“This gift of rest is not primarily to alleviate exhaustion but to foster a contemplative appreciation for having shared in God’s creative and redemptive work. This spiritual rest is meant to foster and deepen our intimate relationship with the Lord so that our efforts of ministry are not just ‘working for God’ but a ‘participation in God’s work’. There is a big difference between those two approaches to ministry. It is the experience of regular spiritual rest and appreciative contemplation with God that allows us to know the mind of Christ and to do God’s will with eagerness, generosity, and freedom. Jesus wanted the twelve apostles to have this experience of spiritual rest so they could better understand how their efforts participated in God’s divine will for the world.”[3]

The Twelve are now called apostles. The word apostle means someone who is “sent out.”  

We, too, can go from being simple disciples to apostles of Christ when we are sent out to do his ministry. But when do this our words and our actions must reflect the Good Shepherd or our efforts will only scatter the sheep.

Our first reading is a beautiful passage from the Prophet Jeremiah.  It foreshadows the coming of the Good Shepherd.

This language spoke deeply into the psyche of the people Israel. From the Old Testament, they heard God is the one who shepherds the people.

“Shepherds had four primary responsibilities: to gather the sheep, to guide the sheep, to protect the sheep, and to care for the sheep. Jesus presents Himself in this passage as the shepherd who fulfills all of these roles.”[4]

As our Good Shepherd, Jesus commissions us to do his mission to draw people closer to God.

Do we draw people closer to God by our words and actions?

From a wonderful resource called “Following in the Footsteps of Jesus” comes this great quote about today’s passage from Mark’s Gospel:

One day we will have to give an account to Jesus, our one and only Lord, as to how we see and treat those masses that are slowly leaving the church, perhaps because they do not hear the good news being spread among us, and because our speeches, official communications, and declarations have become meaningless for them.

Ordinary good people are disappointed because they do not see in us the compassion of Jesus. Some are believers who do not know to whom to go or how to meet a more human God than the one they perceive in our behavior, while others are Christians who are silent because what they have to say will not be listened to by anyone of importance in the church.

Some day the face of this church will change. It will learn to behave more compassionately. It will forget its own sermons and will get down to listening to the suffering of the people. Jesus has the power to change our hearts and to renew our communities.[5]

         This is my prayer for us as disciples of Jesus. This is my prayer for our Church.

This is what Pope Francis is calling us to be as missionary disciples. Not fomenters of division, but missionaries of peace.



[3] Mueggenborg, Daniel (2017). Come Follow Me: Discipleship Reflections on the Sunday Gospel Readings for Liturgical Year B

[4] Mueggenborg, Daniel (2017). Come Follow Me: Discipleship Reflections on the Sunday Gospel Readings for Liturgical Year B

[5] Pagola, J. A. (2011). Following in the Footsteps of Jesus: Meditations on the Gospels for Year B. (R. Luciani, Ed., V. de Souza, Trans.) (p. 106). Miami, FL: Convivium Press. 

No comments:

Post a Comment