The Shepherd’s Lead

 

Fr.John greenSixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: Year B

 

Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34

The Shepherd’s Lead

The image of the shepherd in the Scriptures is one that is familiar to all of us.  Many people have the image of the Good Shepherd in their homes.  Psalm 23 is the most recited of all the Psalms in which we profess, “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want.”  Why is this such a strong image for all of us?  Such an image evokes within us a sense of protection, security and peace.   In plain English, such an image tells us that God is there for us every step of the way!

Sometimes we miss out on the tremendous rural imagery that is contained within the scriptures – for instance, when was the last time we spotted sheep in Florida?  Sheep are awkward animals that rely on the shepherd during the winter for adequate food and shelter.  They will approach their shepherd, but will scatter in the presence of a stranger.  The sheep know the shepherd – in his presence they can be nourished and find shelter and rest.  Without a shepherd, the sheep become vulnerable and left to fend for themselves.  In the rugged terrain of the surrounding countryside, the sheep remain open to attack from wild animals.  The shepherd represents security.  In Christ’s day the wild terrain of Israel presented many dangers for sheep.  It was a common sight to see shepherds at the side of the sheep both day and night.  And so it is with God.  In the midst of the harsh realities and dangers of this life, God is to be found walking by our side both during the day and the night.  He never leaves us alone.  He offers us his security and protection through his presence.

In today’s gospel, Jesus recognizes that there is a hunger present within those who came seeking him.  It was a fairly familiar practice for the people of Ancient Israel to follow wandering preachers.  The great number of people came looking for Jesus.  When Jesus disembarked from the boat, his heart was moved with pity.  Jesus knew their hunger and their emptiness.  Christ understood the state of the human condition that led to an insatiable appetite for healing, restoration, meaning and purpose.  Jesus becomes the true shepherd who offers concrete teachings, leading the people of his day to the truth.

A similar situation exists in our world today.  Many are turning to eastern religions or new age philosophies because they are hungering for the transcendent and meaning.  Some are turning to such ideologies because it is seen to be the popular trend.  There is a danger of a Christian falling away from the faith just because of a conflict they have with their minister or priest.  Human agents are asked to share in the work of shepherding God’s people, but they should never put themselves above the message.  God specifically calls individuals to lead his people.  The authentic preacher and teacher of faith should become transparent, allowing God to speak through him.  The wisdom of Jesus ultimately leads the world to the truth that will set them free.  The shepherd of a community must always preserve the truth of the gospel.  This approach gives the Christian community direction and security.

image: Jesus, the Good Shepherd (Catholic News Service)

Prayer

We pray: Lord I allow you to be the Shepherd of my life.  I pray that I will come to know you more and more.  Please lead me through all of life’s decisions.  Guide me into the way of truth and peace, where I may see your handiwork in the gifts of others around me.  My soul will not find rest, Lord, until it finds rest in you.  Nourish me with your Bread of Life.  May I forever be held in your arms, my Shepherd.  Amen.

Questions

Name the characteristics of a shepherd.
What dangers am I susceptible to?
Is Jesus my Shepherd?
Do I allow him to lead and guide me on my life journey?
Have I found shelter in my God?
Am I open to be nourished by every word, not just some of words, which come from the mouth of Jesus?
Where do I go to encounter Jesus?
Do I spend enough time speaking and listening to God in order to understand what His will is?

Voices of Faith

Resting with the Shepherd

“Come away by yourselves
To a deserted place
And rest for a while
In the meadows of peace and tranquility

For in that quiet place
You will find your Loving Shepherd
Your Comforter, Your Provider,
Your Strength, Your Love

Come away by yourselves
To a deserted place
And rest for a while
In the meadows of peace and tranquility

Leave your world of distraction behind
Depart the terrain of anxiety and stress,
Remove yourself from the place of struggle and uncertainty
Find yourself in the arms of your Protector

Come away by yourselves
To a deserted place
And rest for a while
In the meadows of peace and tranquility

Discover your God waiting for you
A God whose heart is open for you
A God whose ears are waiting to listen to you
A God who wishes to speak to you

So come away by yourselves
Take the risk to discover that deserted place
To rest in the meadows of peace and tranquility
Dare to love the Shepherd who certainly loves you”

— “Peaceful Moments”  by Fr. John J. Ludden

 

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