YEAR B: DETAILED HOMILY FOR THE 16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THEME: LIKE SHEEP WITHOUT A SHEPHERD
BY: Rev Fr Gerald Muoka
HOMILY: R1 – Jer. 23:1-6
R2 – Eph 2:13-18
GOSPEL – Mk 6:30-34
A story was narrated about a little boy, Victor, who stood before his mother one fateful day to register his sentiments of disappointment and dissatisfaction towards his mother’s uncaring and unconcerned attitude over his welfare. The agitations go this way:
“Mommy, you seem not to have time for me. You always go out in the mornings from Monday to Saturday and come back after I must have slept in the evening. Please, stay at home today and play with me. I need some tender care and love from you.” “I can’t,” said the mother.
“Why can’t you play with me?” “It is because I don’t have time.”
“Why don’t you have time?” “It is because I got to go to work. I’m busy with tight schedules at work.
“Why do you have to go to work?” “So I can earn some money.”
“Why do you want to earn money?” “So I can give you something to eat.”
Here there was a short pause. Then the child said, “But mom, I am not hungry.”
Beloved in Christ, a lot of children today, like Victor, are silently wishing and telling their parents and guardians who have abandoned them like sheep without shepherds, with little or no parental Care, “please stay at home today, we need some tender and loving care.” But most shepherds have abandoned them shepherd-less. However, the fact of life is that, works, businesses and other means of livelihood, have been designed by God who empowered man, “By the sweat of your face you shall eat bread, till you return to the ground,” (Gen 3:19), to earn a living and give meaning to our temporary existence here on earth. But, a lot of us have really become slaves to work, businesses, careers and professions; thereby neglecting our parental cum shepherding roles, both as political and religious leaders; leaving our flock like sheep without a shepherd.
That is why, in today’s Gospel reading, Jesus gives us the paradigm, as an ideal shepherd, the Bonus Pastor, who never relents in tending and cartering for the flock who were like sheep without a shepherd; despite his experience of total exhaustion from work; yet he realized that the pastoral care of the sheep worth more than his desired leisure or time for rest.
The readings of today’s liturgy, challenge all Christians that the pastoral ministry includes not only the pastoral care given by ordained ministers or pastors, but the loving service given by all Christians who follow different callings to serve and lead others; because, a Christian who doesn’t care is like a lamp that doesn’t give light; Because, when we care, we are living the Gospel.
In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah (sixth century B.C.), thunders against Israel’s careless leaders – the king, some priests, and some court prophets – because they have shown no concern for the poor. The prophet also foretells the rise of a new, good shepherd in the family-line of David.
The second reading introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both the Jews and the Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, has reconciled all of us with His Father by offering Himself on the cross.
*THE SHEEPFOLD WITHOUT A SHEPHERD*
The first reading of today’s liturgy announces God’s rejection of the shepherds of his flock, which comprises of the elitist class, viz, political and religious leaders, for abandoning the sheep, and making them shepherd-less; while the Gospel reading brings Jeremiah’s prophecy of a futuristic caring and compassionate leader to fruition in Jesus, the Bonus Pastor
Here, it is pertinent to note that, sheep are naturally prey animals and are largely defenseless against predators; they are obviously nervous, and easily frightened. A sheep is a weak, harmless, seemingly foolish creature; prone to wander, and can seldom return of its own accord. A sheep has neither strength to fight with the wolf, nor speed to escape from it; nor has a sheep the foresight of the ant, to provide its own sustenance.
So, without Jesus, the Good Shepherd, we are weak, defenceless and unable to take care of ourselves, prone to wander from our resting-place, exposed to enemies which we can neither escape nor withstand. That is why the responsorial Psalm confirms that, with Jesus as our compassionate and caring shepherd, we shall not want.
The Gospel text makes it clear that, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for those people who were like “sheep without a shepherd.” This brief description, “sheep without a shepherd” is quite dense with biblical allusions. Like the people of Israel, the crowds were in the desert where they would receive not only miraculous food, but guidance and instruction, just as the Torah had been given in the desert of Sinai.
“Sheep without a shepherd” will definitely perish because:
(i) They cannot find their way and will probably end up being eaten by wolves or by other carnivores
(ii) They cannot find pasture, water, and food for themselves,
(iii) They have no defense against the dangers which threaten them.
However, Jesus’ first act with these shepherd-less sheep was to:
(a) Teach them [v. 34]
(b) Feed them [vv. 35-40],
(c) Protect the apostles (who were also His sheep), from the storm [vv. 45-52].
This text affirms Jesus’ extraordinary availability and his compassion for the needy. It teaches us that a Christian should be ready to sacrifice his time and even his rest in the service of the Gospel.
(1) *LOVING CARE AND COMPASSION DEFINE OUR HUMANITY*
We can only boast of having found Christ when we are deeply concerned with the plights and sufferings of others, not when we change churches. That is why loving care and compassion are the truest and most profound and practical definition of our humanity and Christianity; viz, being sensitive, feeling and being concerned with the sufferings and conditions of others.
A Chinese thinker, _Mencius_ , once said, “All people have a capacity for compassion and care. If people see a child about to fall into a well, they will, without exception, experience a feeling of alarm and distress. This is not because they know the child’s parents, nor out of desire for praise … nor out of dislike for the bad reputation that would ensue if they did not go to the child’s rescue. From this we may conclude that without compassion one would not be a human being.”
So, the loving care and compassion which Jesus showed to the crowd are components of true humanity, but alas, recent family problems, rifts and communal clashes and wars have shown us that there are also those who would as soon throw a child into a well as to pull one out.
(2) *THE CHURCH/WORLD NEEDS IDEAL PASTORS AND SHEPHERDS*
As it was during the time of Jeremiah, when leaders, shepherds and pastors abandoned the flock, we now live in such a time, when sheep are scattered without shepherds. Leaders and shepherds have turned into wolves. Political leaders have turned deaf ears to the plight of the masses; some international communities have remained silent over genocidal acts perpetuated by some third world leaders; most parents have abandoned their children to be tutored and mentored by the filthy contents on the Television and other social media platforms (TV and Phones are now the shepherds of most of the young); whereas, a lot of church leaders now feed on the flock for sordid gains, against the mind of the master, Jesus. An ideal leader, pastor or shepherd must be a man of compassion. He must be able to feel deeply the suffering of others, to understand why they fear and tremble. Pastors are also called to lead and “govern wisely” (Jer 23:5), living out in their lives the teaching they communicate. They are to guide people in the right paths and are to be concerned about what is right and just. Their pastoral care should be involved with the people’s needs – spiritual and material, and should provide peaceful care and guidance.
(3) *SHEPHERDING IS NOT DRIVEN BY CONVENIENCE, IT IS A PRIORITY.*
The characteristics of the sheep mentioned above describe them a as weak, defenseless breed of animal who cannot survive without the loving care of a shepherd. This implies that there are people who cannot survive without us as their shepherds. So, the act of shepherding should not be driven by convenience. Jesus attended to the crowd when he needed rest most. The Gospel must be preached, because people would perish if they do not hear it; our children would go astray when we place our businesses, jobs as priorities over them and the constituents would one day rise up to fight and eat up the political leaders when they are deprived or denied of basic amenities. Our duties as shepherds must be a priority and should be carried out without delay, postponement or procrastination.
Finally, a soldier lay dying on a Korean battle-field, and asked for a priest. The medic could not find one; but a wounded man lying nearby, heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you to move,” he said. But the priest replied, “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life,” and crawled to the dying soldier. He heard his confession, gave him absolution, and the two died hand in hand.
MAY THE LORD GRANT US A CARING AND LOVING HEART SO AS TO TREAT AND CARE FOR HUMANITY AMONG US AND OUTSIDE OF US WITH DIGNITY, LOVING CARE AND COMPASSION. AMEN
*GOD BLESS YOU!*
*FR GERALD MUOKA*