Readings at Mass
|First reading||Jeremiah 23:1-6 ©|
|Ephesians 2:13-18 ©|
|Gospel||Mark 6:30-34 ©|
Transcript of “Without the Shepherd, I Shall Want” – 16th Sunday OT 2015
After a few centuries too, the southern kingdom, the Kingdom of Judah is now under threat, and the holy city of God, Jerusalem, Zion, is under siege by the Babylonians. Jeremiah is preaching in this context, and the message is, “Do not be afraid.” This has always been the message of God. Every angel that ever appears to us is always, “Be not afraid. Trust in me.” Jeremiah is saying that even though the greatest affliction is coming against the people right now and soon they would go into captivity in Babylon for 100 years, they’d be exiles in a foreign land, Jeremiah says, “Don’t worry. Trust in God.” He promises that from the branch of David’s tree, a stump will grow. “A stump will come and your savior, your messiah, your king, your Lord, will come among you.”
Okay, just a little bit to reflect on this. You say, “How is that applied to us today? Why does that matter to us? Yes, the messiah comes. How does that change our life?” Deep down in each one of us and every human person, because of our creation as I shared last week, our origin, we have a longing for God. Now in our lives, the more and more we become removed from this reality, we try to find leaders, we try to find satisfaction for those longings we have. This is why, and I’ll include myself and I’ll tell you a little bit about it, why we idealize or idolatrize certain people. Flawed people like you and I, we elevate them up. We expect from politicians to be above ourselves. We expect that they will solve the problems. Or the President in the States when he’s running, all the hope, all the dreams is almost pseudo-Messianic, even to the point where he says, “We’ll turn back the tides of the waters that are rising.” It sounds Messianic, and people want to believe that. However flawed that person is, they can never achieve that, right?
When I was a young guy, high school, I am 18, 19, I was studying political science. I was getting involved with these political movements and so forth. I had a very both enlightening and also kind of discouraging and enlightening conversion experience. Because I had so much hope in the idea of the political process, and there was two parties merging. I was at that conference. As a youth person, I was sponsored to go there this conference. You can figure out what political party that was. They’re merging these two parties, and there was always this hope that things would change.
That being said, and actually seeing if you will how the sausage is made and how the policies are made and being someone that . . . my faith least later, but maybe at that point was in question about my beliefs about human life or the sanctity of marriage. Those things that I know to be non-negotiable, that I’d believe in my heart of hearts I can’t compromise on, and seeing that political process, it was sort of discouraging. Also leaders that you thought would represent our beliefs compromise because we need to do that to get around in this world, so being discouraged by that. But is that their fault? No. I had this ideal from leaders. I longed for something of them that they could not satisfy. Let’s be honest.
We do this again with celebrities. We obsess about them. We have TV programs and magazines. We read all the silly little details about their life because it’s a celebrity, someone we idealize. We get fascinated with them. Then we watch the same programs that tear them apart when they fall apart. Tiger Woods is the best example of this. We love, we admire his talent, we care about him, and then we find out he’s not the husband he really should be, and we love to hear about this. That’s what we do.
Often we have that longing for leadership, affirmation from our leaders. We want someone to lead. It goes even with our good teachers, wonderful teachers for example, or parents as kids we look up to. They say something affirming to us, and we latch on it. We feel like we never felt before, that we have a purpose, we have a meaning. Then later on we find out that our mum and dad are not perfect. Our teachers are not beyond reproach. To be fair once again to them, that’s because we have an expectation of them that cannot be satisfied.
So turn back then to our message today. There is the longing, and now Jesus comes upon this hell, He looks down upon the people, and He has compassion. One translation was pity, His compassion for His people. His compassion for all of us wandering sheep looking for a true shepherd, and Christ has compassion. The apostles finally, all those tribes that were scattered, the 12 representing the tribes now, come back to Him with joy, telling the story how all people are finally coming, and this huge crowd gathers. So what happens? The challenge is . . . the message of the old testament of prophet Jeremiah says, “Look at it, from David’s line, that human family, a savior will come, a king will come, a shepherd came.” But another prophet, Ezekiel, says something different. He says, “Really don’t strive expecting perfect kings.” Saul or David, all these flawed men that we push in power, and then they fall from grace so often. He says, “Don’t trust in them as king, whether the king of Babylon or Egypt or all these kings, these men we try to make God.” He says, “Yahweh, the Lord will be your king. He will reign over you, over your hearts, over your whole life.”
So how do we balance that then? We’re supposed to have a king, but yet Jerusalem failed, and the people are carted off to captivity. We’re also supposed to have God to be our king. Well, the answer is Jesus. Here, the fulfillment of the long line of David, this true and perfect man that would become king, and also God himself sits on the throne. So you see how Christ is the message of the good news. Christ brings about the peace that we all long for. Like sheep without a shepherd, He feeds His flock. He leads us . . . that beautiful-, our favorite song, I think most of us, Psalm 23 that we hear in funerals, we hear again and again. “The Lord now is my shepherd,” and what’s the answer? I no longer want. So we see this beautiful fulfillment in Christ. Now we sometimes forget this, as Christians, as Catholics, we have our Lord, we have our king. But sometimes we go to those old wells, we try to find the perfect leader, the perfect God-man in another place. We’re reminded again and again to be humble, to come to Him, and He will give us rest.
So Christ is our fulfillment. The message of the gospel, the evangelical message that the apostles brought was not that there is some earthly kingdom, that we have . . . “Come, let’s make Him king.” Remember that Jesus after he multiplies the loaves, they want to make Him king, and He slips away. The message of the good news of Christ is not that He comes and He just teaches us to do good things, and be good things, and pay our taxes in the right way. Christ comes, and what does He offer us? God. He offers Himself for us. You say, “What is the response? This now, here and now. We start that longing, and we still strive to be satisfied in all these things. What is the answer? How do I say yes to that?” It’s here in this place. We come to the Lord our shepherd, He feeds us, He gives us His very body and blood. We say to Him in our prayer in our heart when we come to the mass faithfully, we say, “I need you. I love you. Feed me. Feed my soul. You’re my strength, my fortress. You’re my righteousness. Lord I need you.” As we continue this mass, we come close to Christ our king. He is the true shepherd. He longs for our souls and He will free us and give us rest.