The readings today began with the lament and disappointment of God in his shepherds, in the leaders of Israel. He says that they have misled them, scattered them, and just simply not cared for them. And so God promises that he will gather his flock and give them new shepherds, good shepherds… and that it would begin with the shoot of David, a kingly figure who would do what is just and wise. Do you remember last week’s Gospel? Jesus sent out the Apostles two by two to preach repentance and heal and drive out demons. In other words, the good shepherds that God promised were starting to be formed, Jesus was creating the community that we now call the Church, and telling it to go out to others and to show them that life is about to change, that salvation and healing and peace is beginning to take root. We, of course, are also called to be the good shepherds and are meant to do the same thing in our own lives. As Christians we are drawn to stretch out our hands and help others who are in need, to offer a presence of peace and healing. How good each of us at living up to the name of Christian is a whole different homily… but we all know, we know that going to others and being Christ for them is part of this whole deal.
But today the Apostles, and us with them, learn a new side of what it means to be a shepherd to God’s people. While last week the disciples were sent forth with all the excitement that comes from actively going out and encountering the world… today the world comes to them when they aren’t ready. After all their ministry Jesus looks at them and says, “you guys are exhausted. Come on, we’re gonna take a little break and renew our energy.” But before they can even reach that quiet, deserted place they disembark from there boats and find a vast crowd waiting for them. We’ve all been there. I’m sure you’ve had a terrible wreck of a day only to come home to more responsibilities, more things that need to be done, including perhaps family that doesn’t understand that you need an evening to breath. Or maybe it’s as simple as a time your love and charity was taken for granted and all you really wanted to hear was a sincere thank you. I actually had a moment this past week: in May I had my fifth anniversary of priesthood and a few nights ago my classmates and I finally had time to meet for dinner; Ryan and I are the younger ones and he looked at me and said, “Just think, with five years done we only have about forty-five more until we can retire at seventy-five!”
Sometimes we step out of the boat expecting to get away, only to find the crowd already there and staring at us. In those moments, Christ, the one true good shepherd, shows us how we are supposed to respond. Even in this moment of exhaustion and wanting to withdraw, he looks at these crowds who are like sheep without a shepherd and his heart is moved with pity for them. Not frustration, not annoyance… but pity. When we are at our weakest, that can be a very difficult response to have, but just as we have been called to go forth in the peak of our strength to preach his name, so too we are called to bear his heart in the moments of struggle. If that response is hard for you, my advice is something I have told many, many people. “Lord, give me your heart.” When you are in that moment of struggle pray with all the intention that you can muster, “Lord, give me your heart.” At the start of the day, at the end of the day, whenever your mind turns to Christ, “Lord, give me your heart.” We are the good shepherds that the Lord has promised. We are the disciples of Christ sent to the world and that the lost crowds come to. Lord, give us your heart.
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Homilies are meant to be heard, not read… and part of the Eucharistic liturgy, not words that stand alone. Please remember that no homily is written with this blog in mind.