16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Cycle B – 2018

FIRST READING            Jeremiah 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.”

SECOND READING                  Ephesians 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.

GOSPEL                Mark 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.

My sisters and brothers in Christ,

Today we have leaders who lead astray and leaders who don’t help the people.  Always we have had the same.  The Scriptures are filled with stories of these types of leaders in the Old Testament but also in the New Testament.  What kind of a person am I?  That is the challenge of the readings today.

The first reading is from the Prophet Jeremiah.  He tells us that the leaders of the people mislead them.  The leaders have scatter them and driven them away.  For us who live today, at times we wonder what type of things these leaders have done.  If we read the Scriptures, it is clear that the leaders were doing then what so many leaders do at all stages of history.  The leaders begin to look for their own good, for their own power, for their own importance.  Our humanity seems to remain constant throughout all of history.  The number of leaders who have been great because of their true and deep concern for the people are very few.

Always these readings are meant to challenge us.  What values do we have?  Do we truly seek the good of others and make their good more important than our own?  Do we follow the Lord Jesus?

The second reading is from the Letter to the Ephesians.  We can listen to this one phrase of today’s reading:  “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.”  Far too often we forget that God listens to us.  When we think about God and really work at praying to God, then we sometimes pay attention to the fact that God listens to us.  More than that, God works always for our good.  Our God is not a God who is far away from us, but a God who stoops down to listen to us and who always is there for us, even when we are not aware of Him.  God does not lead us astray.  Rather, when we go astray, God is there leading us back and seeking to find ways to love us.

The Gospel today is from the Gospel of Saint Mark.  Jesus clearly wants to have time for Himself, time to pray, time to be alone.  Yet when Jesus sees the people, His heart is moved to be with 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.”

It is more important to be with the people and to show them the road to life than to be off by oneself, even in prayer to God.  On the other hand, we know that Jesus always seeks out time for prayer.  Even if Jesus does not get the time that He was hoping for, nevertheless, He always is praying.  We are not usually so consistent and far too often we push people out of our lives so that we can pray.  We are invited to become more and more like Jesus:  never pushing the people out of our lives but always finding time to pray.

Let us be women and men who always serve the Lord Jesus, the Father and the Spirit in all we do!  Let us abandon ourselves so that we may serve others, each is his or her own way.

Your brother in the Lord,

Abbot Philip