July 16, 2012
Images from the world of shepherds characterize today's readings. For example, the Gospel recounts the return of the disciples from their missionary journey and Jesus invites them to come away to a "deserted" place for rest. But, crowds stream out and arrive before them. And Jesus is moved with pity for them for they were "like sheep without a shepherd."
Like the people of Israel, the crowds are in the desert where they will receive not only miraculous food (next Sunday's Gospel), but guidance and instruction, just as the Torah was given in the desert of Sinai. Thus, Jesus is the good shepherd promised in Jeremiah, who will shepherd the sheep "so that they need no longer fear and tremble." He will also be a Davidic king who shall do what is just and right in the land.
"Pastoring" (shepherding) has been a prime image for leadership and care, and the readings offer a handy job description. The pastor must be a person of compassion, which is the ability to feel deeply the suffering of others, to understand why they fear and tremble.
This attitude of compassion is firmly underlined by the reading from Ephesians wherein Paul reminds us: "Brothers and sisters: So Christ Jesus came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father."
Today let us ask Jesus to give us his spirit of compassion so that we can be as sensitive and responsive to the needs of people around us as he was. And let us be prepared to live lives of compassion whether it calls for a change in our plans for the summer or in our plans for the rest of our lives.
Whenever we celebrate the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity, Jesus Christ, the Good Shepherd, gathers us to partake of his Body and Blood as one family. With it we have the strength to do God's work. As we will pray at the conclusion of today’s liturgy: Merciful Father, may these mysteries give us new purpose and bring us to a new life in you. (The Roman Missal, Collins, London, 1974)