Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

Good Shepard Christ.jpg

“When he 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.”

PRAYER OF THE WEEK

Prayer for the Salvation of the World

Father, hear our prayers for the salvation of the world.

Grant Mercy to all souls that turned away from You.

Open their hearts and minds with Your light.

Gather Your children from the east and the west, from the north and the south.

Have mercy O God on those who do not know You.

Bring them out of darkness into Your light.

You are our saving God Who leads us in our salvation.

Protect us from evil.

Bless and praise You O Lord, hear our prayers and answer us.

You, our Savior, are the hope of all the ends of the Earth and the distant seas.

May Your way be known upon Earth; among all nations Your salvation.

We put the world in Your hands; fill us with Your love.

Grant us peace through Christ, our Lord. Amen

COLLECT

Show favor, O Lord, to your servants

and mercifully increase the gifts of your grace,

that, made fervent in hope, faith and charity,

they may be ever watchful in keeping your commands.

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

s_jeremiah.jpg

Jer 23:1-6

Woe to the shepherds

who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture,

says the LORD.

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.

I myself will gather the remnant of my flock

from all the lands to which I have driven them

and bring them back to their meadow;

there they shall increase and multiply.

I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them

so that they need no longer fear and tremble;

and none shall be missing, says the LORD.

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD,

when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David;

as king he shall reign and govern wisely,

he shall do what is just and right in the land.

In his days Judah shall be saved,

Israel shall dwell in security.

This is the name they give him:

“The LORD our justice.”

APPLICATION

In the midst of the misfortunes and afflictions which were about to engulf his people—afflictions and misfortunes brought on them especially by their religious and civic leaders—Jeremiah had words of consolation and encouragement. Bright and happy days were in store for them. Some would return from the exile and live in peace in their homeland under more God-fearing leaders. But it is to the messianic age, to Christ’s day, that the thoughts of the prophet were especially turned. The great day would come when the new Chosen People would have a king who would be justice itself, a king to keep them loyal to God, a shepherd to care for their real interests. As psalm 22 puts it: “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want. He guides me along the right path, he is true to his name … In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for ever and ever.”

Both Jeremiah and the psalmist were looking into the future and beheld the coming of Christ and the age of the new Chosen People. That these are messianic prophecies is clear from the fact that our Divine Lord himself applied the title of the true shepherd to himself: “I am the good shepherd, I know my own and my own know me, just as the Father knows me and I know the Father; and I lay down my life for my sheep” (Jn. 10: 14-15).

We today are indeed fortunate to be living in the Christian era. We have seen the messianic prophecies fulfilled; we know that Christ has come and changed our world. We know that we are the sheep of his chosen flock, the members indeed of his mystical body. We know that he has put us on the right path, on the road to heaven and that as faithful Shepherd he is, ever watching over us, moving us on when we are inclined to nibble at the forbidden grass by the road-side, bringing us back on his own shoulders when we stray from the path and get caught up in the briars and brambles of earthly attractions.

We Christians know all of this, but do we really appreciate what the good God has done for us? By sending his Son on earth as man, he made us heirs to heaven, brothers of Christ and adopted sons of himself. Heaven is now our destination, our only real purpose in life. Everything else is absolutely secondary and only of transitory importance. Yet how many there are who let these things of secondary importance get such a hold on them that they forget or ignore their one and only purpose in life? They allow the transitory things of this life to hold them back from reaching the endless life of heaven.

To help us to see the utter folly of such Christians let us suppose, for a moment, a poor man who had a great desire to go to Lourdes. He was given a free ticket with all expenses paid. He set out joyfully, say from Chicago. His first stop was New York. Here he became enchanted with the hustle and bustle of the great city’s life. He visited many movie pictures and stage productions and spent so much time that he missed the pilgrim ship for which he was booked. He had not enough to pay for a ticket to Europe on another ship and so he missed seeing Lourdes. He ended his days in misery in New York, no longer enchanted by its attractions but driven to despair by the utter emptiness of what it had to offer. That man’s fate was but a shadow of the irreparable loss of the Christian who lets the attractions of this world keep him from heaven.

He may find his days, his mind and his hands full of interesting worldly affairs, but he should realize that every time the clock strikes he is an hour nearer to his earthly end. After that what is there for him? What explanation can he offer when he arrives empty-handed and totally unprepared at the judgement seat? He cannot plead ignorance; he cannot plead lack of time; he could have provided for all of his earthly needs, while providing at the same time for his eternal future. He allowed himself to get so immersed in the things of this world that he gave no thought to his future. It has happened before and it will happen again. It can happen to us unless we frequently take a good look at our way of living and honestly and sincerely measure our daily doings by the standard of the Gospel. If frequently during life we judge ourselves and our actions with all sincerity we need not fear the judgement after death.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 51 “It pleased God, in his goodness and wisdom, to reveal himself and to make known the mystery of his will. His will was that men should have access to the Father, through Christ, the Word made flesh, in the Holy Spirit, and thus become sharers in the divine nature.”1

CCC 2305 Earthly peace is the image and fruit of the peace of Christ, the messianic “Prince of Peace.”2 By the blood of his Cross, “in his own person he killed the hostility,”3 he reconciled men with God and made his Church the sacrament of the unity of the human race and of its union with God. “He is our peace.”4 He has declared: “Blessed are the peacemakers.”5

1 DV 2; cf. Eph 1:9; 2:18; 2 Pt 1:4.

2 Isa 9:5.

3 Eph 2:16 J.B.; cf. Col 1:20-22.

4 Eph 2:14.

5 Mt 5:9.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

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.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

He guides me in right paths

for his name’s sake.

Even though I walk in the dark valley

I fear no evil; for you are at my side

with your rod and your staff

that give me courage.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me

in the sight of my foes;

you anoint my head with oil;

my cup overflows.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Only goodness and kindness follow me

all the days of my life;

and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD

for years to come.

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

READING II

Christ the Peacekeeper.jpg

Eph 2:13-18

Brothers and sisters:

In Christ Jesus you who once were far off

have become near by the blood of Christ.

For he is our peace, he who made both one

and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh,

abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims,

that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two,

thus establishing peace,

and might reconcile both with God,

in one body, through the cross,

putting that enmity to death by it.

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.

APPLICATION

“He came and preached peace.” In these five words, St. Paul sums up the, ministry of Christ on earth. He preached peace. He laid down the foundations of peace. He reconciled men with God their Creator and Father, and reconciled men with one another. He taught men to be brotherly toward one another. When questioned by one of the Pharisees as to which was the most important of the commandments, he answered: “Love God with all your heart, all your strength and alI your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” The two together are the essence of true religion “on these two depend the whole law and the prophets.”

Long before Christ came on earth, the prophets had described the kingdom which he was to establish as a kingdom of peace. He was called the Prince of Peace (Is. 9); in his kingdom there would never again be war “men would turn their swords into plowshares, their spears into sickles. Nation will not lift sword against nation, there will be no more training for war” (Is. 2; see also Is. 11; Ag. 2: 8-10; Zech. 9: 10). These prophecies, however, were not fulfilled in the kingdom that Christ set up on this earth, nor was that intended. The prophets were speaking of the final kingdom, the completion of Christ’s work in heaven. There the perfect peace will prevail; there man will truly love his fellowman and all men will love God.

Christ did lay the foundations for peace between men and between nations even on this earth. He made us all his brothers; he made all men, no matter what their race or color, God’s adopted sons and therefore members of the one, family. But we must not forget that while Christ laid solid and secure foundations, the walls of the building were to be built of mortal, fallible men who could abuse the gift of freewill with which they were endowed. If all men kept the two great commandments, loving God with all their heart and loving their neighbor as themselves, peace would naturally follow. Such an if, however, is a capital “IF,” for unfortunately, there will always be among us those who will fail to keep these basic commandments to the letter, and therefore there will always be violations of peace.

While we regret that even our fellow-Christians can and do break these commandments and act contrary to the teaching of their faith, we must not be scandalized at this nor must we say that Christ’s teaching has failed. Christ laid the foundations for peace; he encouraged his followers to live in peace; he wished them, this peace, but even Christ could not force man’s freewill. He, being God, foresaw that the Christian peace which should reign in our world would be broken many times. Yet, his forgiveness was ever available, to those who failed to keep his law, and his grace and divine assistance were there to help all who suffered because of the violation of his law.

There will always be some who will be a menace and a threat to peace, because they have forgotten that God is their Father. Consequently, they do not look on their neighbor as their brother. There is still a majority of God-loving and neighbor-loving men and women among us, not only in the Christian Church but outside of it also, who want peace. It is up to them to make their voices heard before God, first of all their daily, fervent prayers for peace; and then also in the councils of state where human decisions are taken.

We can all do more for the preservation of peace on earth than perhaps we realize. All true lovers of God and neighbor should instill this same love in their children so that they will grow up inspired by respect for the two greatest commandments–they will be peace-lovers. In our street, in our town, in our country, by word, by example and by prayer we can do much to spread love for the peace which flows from love of neighbor and love of God. If we turned our protest-marches, which so often are not inspired by true, love of peace, into prayer-marches we might see better results. “More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of,” said Tennyson long ago. He was but repeating what Christ had said centuries before: “ask and you shall receive.” Peace in one’s conscience, peace in one’s home, peace with one’s neighbors, peace between nations is one of the noblest causes to which one can dedicate one’s energies and prayers. “Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace.”

GOSPEL

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Mk 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus

and reported all they had done and taught.

He said to them,

“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”

People were coming and going in great numbers,

and they had no opportunity even to eat.

So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.

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.

When he 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.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072218.cfm

APPLICATION

In these few verses St. Mark very strongly brings out the compassion, the human understanding of Jesus for man. He first planned to give his Apostles a well-earned rest. They had evidently worked hard while out on their mission and a few days rest would restore their lost energy. He himself, too, must have been hard-pressed, preaching and dealing with the crowds. In the absence of the Apostles he had no one to help him–he too needed a rest. He, therefore. planned that he and they should go to a quiet corner of the Sea of Galilee where there was no village and where, therefore, they would not be disturbed.

The desire of the crowds, however, to see him and to hear him speak upset these plans. The people got to the quiet spot first. There they were waiting when the boat pulled to shore. He could have sent them away, but again his human compassion took over. Seeing these simple people of Galilee so anxious to hear about God and his mercy, he let them stay and began to preach the good news of forgiveness and hope to them. For the most part they were simple, unlettered villagers, shepherds and fishermen. They knew a little about the Law of Moses but only a little. There was no one but the local rabbi to teach them and the local rabbis were not very educated at the time. The doctors of the law, the great theologians were all in Jerusalem where they got the respect and the financial reward which they felt they merited. Hence the people of the country were more or less forgotten and neglected. They were, as our Lord described them, ” like sheep without a shepherd,” wandering about half-lost.

They were certainly fortunate, however, in finding the true shepherd who would lead them to the eternal pastures. Not only would he now sacrifice his rest to come to their aid but he would, later on, lay down his life for them and for all of us. We, like those poor people of Galilee, have so much to be grateful for. The compassionate Christ has had pity on us too, and has brought us into his fold. He knows all our infirmities and all our human weaknesses, and he is ever-ready to have pity on us and pardon us. Those people of Galilee were not saints, they were ordinary, run-of-the-mill, not over religious people. They cheated one another; they were often uncharitable to one another; they were not always chaste and pure; they prayed very little and perhaps only when they wanted some material benefit. Yet our Lord had compassion on them.

This should give us great confidence, great encouragement. Christ has not changed: he is the same yesterday, today and forever. He has the same compassion for us that he had for those Galileans; we too are often like sheep without a shepherd wandering half-lost through life. He is ever calling us to come to himself so that he will lead us to safe pastures. If only we would listen to his merciful call! Today’s Gospel is one such call : it goes out to every member of this congregation who has been lax in his or her religious life up to now. Christ wants us back on the high-road to heaven. All we have to do is to break with the past, with the earthly things that kept us from God. We can set out as freemen to follow Christ. He has left to his Church the holy sacrament of penance in which he guarantees us complete and entire remission of all past sins if we confess them with true sorrow. Let us not think that our sins are too big to be forgiven, that Christ could not have compassion on us because of our dreadful past. We can remember those Galileans; many of them were sinners as we are and he had compassion on them. He came to call sinners, he tells us. Let us answer his call today–tomorrow might be too late.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Ignatius Press

BENEDICTUS

Following, Believing, Loving

To follow” means to entrust oneself to the Word of God, to rate it higher than the laws of money and bread and to live by it. In short, to follow means to believe, but to “believe” in the sense of making a radical decision between the two and, in the last analysis, the only two possibilities for human life: bread and the word. The human person does not live on bread alone but also and primarily on the word, the spirit, meaning. It is always this same radical decision that confronts disciples when they hear the call “Follow me!”; the radical decision to stake one’s life either on profit and gain or on truth and love; the radical decision to live for oneself or to surrender one’s self… Only in losing themselves can human beings find themselves. The real and radical martyrdom of genuine self-renunciation means to accept the inner essence of the cross, namely the radical love expressed therein, and thus to imitate God himself. For on the cross God revealed himself as the One who pours himself out in prodigal fashion; who surrenders his glory in order to be present for us; who desires to rule the world not by power but by love, and in the weakness of the cross reveals his power which operates so differently from the power of this world’s mighty rulers. To follow Christ, then, means to enter into the self-surrender that is the real heart of love. To follow Christ means to become one who loves as God has loved… In the last analysis, to follow Christ is simply for man to become human by integration into the humanity of God.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for World Peace (1978)

Lord, we pray for the power to be gentle; the strength to be forgiving; the patience to be understanding; and the endurance to accept the consequences of holding to what we believe to be right.

May we put our trust in the power of good to overcome evil and the power of love to overcome hatred.

We pray for the vision to see and the faith to believe in a world emancipated from violence, a new world where fear shall no longer lead men to commit injustice, nor selfishness make them bring suffering to others.

Help us to devote our whole life and thought and energy to the task of making peace, praying always for the inspiration and the power to fulfill the destiny for which we and all men were created. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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