Our readings this Sunday explain how God, like a good shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them. They also challenge us to use our God-given authority in the family, in the church and in society, with faithful fidelity and responsibility. Let us be reminded that shepherding is not limited to the work and ministry of ordained “pastors” but also expressed in the loving service given by all Christians who follow different callings to serve and lead others.
We hear how the prophet Jeremiah thunders against Israel’s careless leaders (the king, some priests and some court prophets) because they have shown no concern for the poor. St. Paul introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both the Jews and the Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, reconciled all of us with His Father by offering himself on the cross. Paul also speaks about reconciliation between the Jews and the Gentiles, brought about by Jesus. The gospel presents Jesus as the good shepherd fulfilling God’s promise given through his prophet Jeremiah in the first reading. Here we see Jesus attending to his weary apostles, who have just returned from their first preaching mission, while at the same time expressing his concern for the people who were liked to a sheep without a shepherd.
We need the grace of God to enable us to become good shepherds. Our Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again. We need God and we need each other. And through our prayer-life we communicate with God. We need to get away from our busy lives to attend to our prayers and devotions. And this also includes allowing God the opportunity to speak to us and recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. We receive strength from God to do our share as shepherds by constantly uniting ourselves to Him through our prayers and in our participation and involvement in our Christian communities.
Christ has shown us His love and compassion. His heart is overflowing with mercy and kindness. We must also display the same compassion of Jesus by meeting the social and material needs of others by our works of charity as individual Christians and as a parish community.
Rev. Fr. Reynaldo A. Domagas
(Reflections on the readings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. This is published in the parish bulletin of Our Lady of Victory Church, New York, July 22, 2012)