We especially need “quiet time,” time to put ourselves back together from frantic, stressful living

Today our readings are all about Shepherds and what God expects of them. In the first reading, Jeremiah takes out after the religious leaders, (shepherds) who have not fed nor led the people of Israel according to their traditions. The people have been sent, therefore, into exile as a punishment. This sets up a second prediction which is hopeful and personal and is meant to announce the coming of the Messiah. God is really angry with the kings of Judah for neglecting the Law, for ignoring the prophets, and leading the people astray. He is so frustrated that through Jeremiah He threatens to fire them all! He Himself will shepherd the people. For the first time, the people hear God’s promise to one day send a Messiah-King. Shortly after this warning, both king and people are led into seventy years of exile in Babylon. Because of their neglect, only a “faithful remnant” will ever return.

In the second reading from St. Paul’s letter to the Ephesians, we hear that this Messiah, Jesus Christ, has come to unite both Jew and Gentile. “You who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ.” He has come to bring peace to those whom He has united in His own Body through the Holy Spirit.

The Gospel is about the apostles’ first venture out as missionaries. As they gather around Jesus to report on their success, Jesus can see how tired they are. He tells them to “take the day off.” They plan to go away to a quiet place. We are told that, “They went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. Here Jesus is trying to get to somewhere quiet and peaceful, where He can pray and spend time with the disciples. We’ll be much more effective if we follow Jesus’ advice. We especially need “quiet time,” time to put ourselves back together from frantic, stressful living. Even if it’s not possible to go far away from home, we can spend some time each day in prayer and reading. A quiet time at morning Mass can really refresh and invigorate us.

Unfortunately, the crowds get wind of Jesus and His disciples, and arrive at that same desert place ahead of them. Instead of being angry, Jesus has pity on them, for they are “like sheep without a shepherd.” And He proceeds to teach them many things. The Good Shepherd is ever attentive to the needs of His flock. He gathers them to Himself and keeps them safe from predators who seek to scatter and steal and slaughter. He seeks them out when they are lost and rejoices when they are found. He leads them through the valley of the shadow of death to the restful waters and verdant pastures where they might find rest. The Good Shepherd is not to be outdone in taking care of His sheep.

How can we not be moved by this account of the vast crowds hanging on Jesus’ every word as He preaches at length about the Kingdom of God? His words speak to the heart of every person, for they truly give life to the soul. How blessed we are to have access not only to the words of Jesus as they are presented to us in the Bible, but also to have access to the Word of God, living and breathing in the heart of the Church. Like the members of the large crowd that gathered that day so many years ago, we are privileged to experience the Word of God who becomes flesh and dwells among us


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