16TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
As we listen to the scripture readings this weekend we hear about shepherds. The first reading is a call to those who were not good shepherds who allowed the flock to be both destroyed and scattered to come to their senses. And the gospel story seems to suggest that we should separate ourselves from our work at times in order to find some peace and quiet. That is surely part of it as we are often encouraged to go on retreat, but something much more profound is the issue here. We must in fact find the quiet place in our hearts to which we can withdraw at any time, whether at work or at play. It is in this quiet place that we ponder the word of God, our loving Father. These words are spoken to all of us, just as they were to Jesus in his time. The biblical reader knows the significance of a “deserted place.” We recall that, after God delivered the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery, God led them out to the desert and tended them with food and drink. And more! In the desert God revealed himself to the people and made a lasting covenant with them.
Jesus is doing what God did for the people in the desert. He teaches them “many things.” They are spoken softly but very insistently. When we take time to hear them in that quiet place in our hearts, there is nowhere else that we would rather be, for they affirm us and liberate us to be all that we are meant to be. When this happens, we are no longer like sheep without a shepherd, no longer confused about the meaning of life or about our ability to live in peace and joy. One may object that, if this happens, we will soon be “out of touch or distracted or living in fantasy. But that does not happen when we are really in touch with God, we become far more attuned to what is real in life than the so-called “practical people” do. Those who really encountered Christ, especially the Apostles had an anchor in their lives. That anchor was the care of Jesus the Good Shepherd for each of those around him in his day. This is the Christ we to believe in today, he is the good shepherd who cares for us in the here and now of our daily existence. We remember the words from the psalm The Lord is my Shepherd there is nothing I shall want Or just to change it a wee bit Jesus is Our Shepherd there is nothing we shall want.