16th Sunday of Ordinary Time: Year B.
Commentary Theme for this Sunday:
“Like Sheep without a Shepherd.”
In the first reading, Jeremiah condemns the leaders of his time who are leading the sheep that God has entrusted to them to ruin. He then promises the coming of a shoot from the house of David, who will be a true shepherd of his people.
The second reading points out who are the members of the flock led by Jesus. It is not made up only of Jews; but to all people without distinction are part of it. Jesus has pulled down all the barriers that divide people and nations.
The Gospel tells us who this shepherd is: Jesus of Nazareth, sent by the Father to guide all men and women who are wandering around like sheep without a shepherd.
Jesus fulfils his mission through his word, the same word that continues to be proclaimed today by the community of his disciples.
It is recommended that the actual readings are first studied and then meditated upon with a prayer to the Holy Spirit to grant you the gift of ‘wisdom’ to understand the meaning of the messages of Love, Forgiveness and the Offer of Salvation that the Lord has for each one of us in the Holy Bible.
These commentaries, which have been extracted and summarised for our meditation are from the published works of priests who have by their Divine inspiration become acclaimed scholars of the Scriptures and generally reflect the Church’s understanding of the readings.
These commentaries are not meant to replace the Sunday Homily at Holy Mass but are provided as an additional guide to assist and further enhance our understanding of the Sunday Liturgical Readings.
‘Daily Reflections’ and a Prayer are included to enable us to ‘Live the Word’ during the week following the Sunday Mass. We will begin to understand the meaning of gratuitous love and our life’s true purpose. Through His Word we will follow the Light to help fulfil the mission that has been given to each one of us by our Creator.
“Ignorance of the Scriptures is ‘Ignorance of Christ’.”
This Sunday’s reading seems to have been proclaimed just before Jerusalem fell to the Babylonians in 587 B.C., during the reign of the ineffectual king Zedekiah. It quotes the words, which God threatened the political leaders who were incapable and corrupt.
In the first half of the reading, aimed at the kings of Judah, he berates the shepherds for their neglect of the flock. They have not protected the flock and have allowed the sheep to go astray. But God will undo the harm they have done and will gather the sheep again and bring them back to where they belong. The threats to the wicked shepherds contained in this reading perhaps recall to mind the unjust situations of violence and oppression that exists today in the world. Many are those who are in power abuse their authority and commit acts of tyranny. Political leaders are always lured by and often yield to the temptation to practice corruption. In this country, it’s rare to go a week without hearing about some civic officials who have misused their office and betrayed people’s trust. The prophet compared corrupt leaders to shepherds who, instead of protecting the flock entrusted to them, led it to its destruction. “Woe to you” – says the Lord – “I shall take care of your misdeeds”. After this condemnation of the king, the prophet addresses himself to the people and seeks to encourage them. He assures them that God will not abandon them and promises that the Lord will take care of his sheep and lead them back to their land, into the pastures from whence they were taken by violence and force.
In the second half of the reading God promises that there will be new shepherds for the flock, leaders who will deliver them from fear and bring them all back together. The false shepherds will be replaced by a ‘new shepherd’, by a personage who would represent God’s care for his people, by someone who would be everything a shepherd should be. The words of Jeremiah however should not draw our attention only to the sins of others. At times, when we are called to be shepherds or to exercise authority, we too behave like “bad shepherds.” Are we, for instance, not tempted to use authority to further our own selves and interests, to show people how important we are? Don’t we tend to favour our friends and relatives? In our own community, don’t we at times seek to further our personal standing rather than serve our brothers and sisters unselfishly?
In order to console his people, Jeremiah does not speak just of the immediate future, but announces also what God plans to do. He will raise a fitting shoot from the house of David, a wise king, who will be just and upright and will foster justice on earth. Was this prophecy fulfilled? Yes, but not in the way people expected. God went beyond all expectations. The promised “shepherd” did not establish a kingdom of this world, did not subject people by the force of arms; he transformed their hearts. This is why his kingdom of ‘peace and justice’ has begun to spread all over and is destined to last forever. We know the “shepherd” the promised son of David was Jesus of Nazareth. What God promised through Jeremiah was fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus. That’s the lesson the Lectionary gives by placing these verses from Jeremiah side by side with this Sunday’s Gospel (Mark 6:30-34).
This popular Psalm of trust uses two images to describe God’s loving care for his people. He is the shepherd who leads his people to the best pastures, and the host who entertains his guests at a rich table. The image of God as “Shepherd of Israel” is very common in the Old Testament, especially among the prophets. Jesus applied this title to himself and is also given to him by the later New Testament writers. The Psalm describes God as an ideal ruler and shepherd. With such a shepherd, the people survive bad times when they pass through the valley of darkness and appreciate good times when, as their host, God feeds them at a banquet. The mention of water, oil and wine recall the sacraments of Christian Initiation: Baptism, Confirmation and the Eucharist.
According to St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians, God brings everything together in Christ. Division between Jew and Gentile belongs to the past, thanks to the blood of Christ. Jesus’ death brought about the reconciliation of humanity and the whole world to God, and ended separation between human groups. The wall in the Jerusalem Temple, set up to keep Jew and Gentile apart, had been pulled down in principle long before it was destroyed by the Romans in A.D. 70. For those in Christ, there are no divisions, wrote Paul (Gal. 3:28). According to John, Christ the Good Shepherd, died to bring into ‘one’ the scattered people of God (John 10:16; 11:52).
We, the Christians of today, are called to be witnesses to this unity and peace among the nations. We could find many excuses for remaining disunited such as barriers of nationality, race, tribe, culture and behaviour. But in spite of all these we must show the world that the “Love of Christ” Christians have for all others is capable of breaking down all these walls and barriers that separate us, not only from ourselves, but also from God.
The apostles sent out by Jesus, come back from their mission and excitedly report all that they have done and taught. They had followed his command to teach and heal, and it worked! But Jesus knows the cost of this mission, and the need to rest and pray. Jesus draws them tenderly aside from the limelight and invites them to go with him to a lonely place where they could be by themselves and rest. Jesus listened to his disciple’s report and knows their need for rest. A withdrawal would help them regain their strength. It would also help them to share their experiences at a deeper level and so deepen their relationship with God and each other.
They go off, but the crowds follow them. Of course they do. What with all the miracles happening around Galilee that week, it is a wonder that Jesus’ band got out of town at all. The people want more. So Jesus and his apostles are mobbed before their retreat has begun. Jesus does not chase the crowds away, but pities them and the desire to teach wells up in him. This crowd is so needy, hungry, hurting and ignorant. There is so much they do not understand, even in the midst of miracles. The desire to teach them overwhelms his need for rest.
The first task of the Shepherd was to teach them many things. Mark is silent about the content of his teaching. We have already learned from Mark’s parable chapter how such teaching can produce a hundredfold and provide shelter for all nations represented by all the birds of the sky. After he had taught them, the Shepherd gave physical food by multiplying the loaves and the fishes. Mark adds a motive for his pity: they were like sheep without a shepherd. He saw in Jesus the true ‘Shepherd’ of whom Jeremiah wrote.
In a world marred by sin, the Good Shepherd cannot look away. Mark will narrate the miracle of Jesus afterwards. It is as though he wanted to signify that spiritual nourishment has to go hand in hand with material nourishment. We cannot content ourselves with teaching people to know God and then let them continue to live in conditions that deprive them of the basic commodities they need for decent and dignified living. Neither must we emphasize material development so much that the spiritual care has no place. Both types of ministry had a place in the life of Jesus’ followers.
It is important for us too to be in a lonely place occasionally with the Lord to re-examine, deepen and re-orient our relationship with Jesus. Mark uses the expression “lonely place” three times (vv. 31,32,35). Jesus continues what God did for our ancestors in the desert in the past. As baptized Christians, we are all shepherds of those who come under our care and as shepherds of Christ’s people, we must therefore manifest in whatever we do, the compassion and love of our Lord. The joy of the Christian is to experience and live in the holiness of Christ and know that this is our gift from God.
Jesus teaches us to put the needs of others before ourselves. We must look upon those in need of our care with the loving eyes of Jesus.
‘Acknowledgement and Thanks’ to ‘Recommended Source Material’ by:
Archbishop Daniel E. Pilarczyk, Fr. Fernando Armellini SCI, Peter Edmonds SJ, Richard Baawobr M.Afr, Joseph A. Slattery Ph.D, Adelmo Spagnolo MCCJ, Silvester O’Flynn OFM Cap, J.E. Spicer CSsR, John R. Donahue SJ and Alice Camille – Master’s degree in Divinity.
Reflections for each day this Week to lead us in the ‘Way, the Truth and the Life’:
Almighty God and Father, on the … of the week following the
16th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year B, we reflect on …
Sun. … Many leaders and even high profile ones can be tempted and lured into the practice of corruption. This is often a consequence of putting our own interests before the needs of others. We must all be aware of this human weakness in ourselves and in the people we trust in positions of authority. The criticisms of the prophet Jeremiah should not only draw our attention to the sins of others, it should help us reflect on our own actions when acting in positions of authority.
Mon. … God promises that there will be new shepherds for the flock, leaders who will deliver them from fear and bring them all back together. The false shepherds will be replaced by a new shepherd, by a personage who would represent God’s care for his people, by someone who would be everything a shepherd should be. What God promised through Jeremiah was fulfilled in the ministry of Jesus. Have we allowed the ‘Good Shepherd’ to lead us in his Way, Truth And Life?
Tues. … At times God will call us to be shepherds and exercise authority, sometimes without us realizing that it is the Lord who is calling us to serve. How will we handle this great responsibility? Will we accept this challenge and always put the needs of others first?
Wed. … The Psalm describes God as an ideal ruler and a shepherd. People are able to survive difficult times when they are guided by a leader who is just and cares for their needs. People are even prepared to make greater sacrifices for the right reasons. Do we put our total trust and faith in God our Shepherd?
Thurs. … St. Paul tells us that Jesus’ death brought about the reconciliation of humanity with God, and ended separation between human groups. Are we today proper witnesses to this unity and peace that Jesus won for us, despite the barriers that contemporary society continuously tends to build up? Do we strive to break down the barriers that marginalize the poor and the weak? Do we have the courage like Jeremiah to speak out against such injustice?
Frid. … As baptized Christians sent out by Christ to care for his communities, we must look upon both the material and spiritual requirements of the needy and the hungry. As shepherds of Christ’s lost sheep we must manifest in whatever we do, the compassion and love of our Lord. We remember the words of Jesus: “Whatever you did for one of these least brothers and sisters of mine, you did to me!” (Mt.25: 40)
Sat. … Like the disciples of Jesus in today’s Gospel we too need to find a quiet and lonely place to re-examine, deepen and re-orient our relationship with God; a ‘spiritual desert’ that we can go out into, climb up to a ‘high place’ and be alone with our maker who loves us. It will strengthen and deepen our relationship with the Father and change our lives.
Prayer after the Daily Reflection.
Father, we thank You for being our Shepherd and pray for the courage that in our culture of corruption, selfishness and greed to put the needs of others first. May we strive to break down the barriers imposed by the forces of greed and selfishness that separates the marginalized from Your gifts that You have given to all people in our world. May we endeavour to give the proper care, guidance and justice that all people deserve.
This we ask through our Lord Jesus Christ, Your Son, who lives and reigns with You and the Holy Spirit, One God, forever and ever. Amen.
Compliments: Bible Discussion Group. Our Lady of the Wayside, Maryvale.
“Discovering the Truth through God’s living Word”.