The authors of the Lectionary advise us frequently to look at the First Reading and the Gospel together. Today they seem to be both about shepherds. In the First Reading Jeremiah castigates the shepherds and teachers of Israel who he says have let the sheep go astray. He warns them of the vengeance of God who will punish them for their misdeeds and neglect of their flock.
He goes on to foretell the coming of new shepherds who the Lord will raise up to tend his flock. And more than this, because he says that there will also be a new King who will rule Israel with wisdom and integrity. From our vantage point in history we don’t need to be told that this new and virtuous King is Christ himself.
In the Gospel reading we hear how the Apostles have returned from their ministry in the surrounding villages and Christ proposes that they now go to a place of rest for prayer and recuperation. However, it seems that the people had followed the Apostles and would give them no peace, not allowing them even time enough to eat.
The Apostles and Jesus go off together in a boat to a lonely place but the people follow them by land and by taking a short cut they get to the destination before them. Jesus sees the crowd and takes pity on them gathered there and so he starts to teach them at length because, as it says, they were like sheep without a shepherd.
We are shown here the compassion of Jesus who takes pity on the people who were thirsting to hear the Word of God. This highlights the important role of shepherds, of those charged with leadership of the People of God. Even though the people tire them out with their constant demands they, following the example of Jesus, wish to serve them to the point of exhaustion.
Switching to our own day we see that it is true that Apostles are now very much needed. We have seen a steep decline in the numbers of priests and religious in the Church; and while some lay people are stepping up to take their place it is not enough.
In short, we are facing a tremendous crisis of leadership in the Church. Bishops and Religious Superiors have drafted in priests and religious from the developing areas of our world but still we face a shortage.
So there is a great need for new people to take on roles of leadership in the Church; whether this be as priests, religious or lay people. From each community there should arise a sufficient number of leaders able to take on the task of supporting the work of the Church in its own particular locale.
Here in Wealdstone we are a particularly large parish but that means that there is a lot of work to do. We certainly need more Eucharistic ministers, more readers, more catechists, more youth leaders, more altar servers and so on. But we also need others to help with preparing couples for marriage, people to support the bereaved and persons to take up positions of responsibility in our schools.
We need too a few men who can train to become permanent deacons so that we can benefit from their preaching and ministry. There is a lot to do and we all have to realize that each one of us has a role to play within the life of the parish.
Jesus tells the Apostles that they need to go away to a lonely place to be by themselves so that they can rest and pray. We all need this ourselves from time to time. In the Church today we often speak about going on a retreat or a pilgrimage. We go off to a holy place, whether it be a monastery or a shrine, and take some time to recharge our spiritual batteries.
It is vital for us to do this now and again. All of us need on occasion sufficient space to reflect on our lives and to make important changes in our priorities. To do this effectively we need to set aside the necessary time for us to be alone with the Lord.
Actually, at St Joseph’s we do this sort of thing quite well. There are many opportunities through the year to go to Lourdes or Walsingham or to other pilgrimage places. For example there is a pilgrimage to the Motherhouse of the Sisters in Sturry on 22nd August and I hope that many parishioners will join the trip.
This will be a very good way of us expressing our support for the Sisters but more importantly enabling us to spend a few hours in a holy place so that we can say our prayers and give a little time to God.
I urge you to take advantage of these opportunities to be like the Apostles and spend some time apart with like-minded people so that we can return to the pressures of everyday life spiritually refreshed and rejuvenated.
Of course, if you are not able to get away to a place of pilgrimage it is possible to do it in your own home. It is possible to set aside a day or even a few hours for private meditation. Reading a spiritual book, saying some prayers, doing the Stations of the Cross, meditating on the scriptures; all these things can be done at home.
I would urge every parishioner also to have in their home a special place for prayer. It doesn’t have to be an actual altar; it could be just a crucifix, a holy picture or a statue put in a particular corner. This small shrine can then become a place set aside for personal prayer and meditation.
Having such a place in one’s home is a great advantage and brings blessings on the whole house. It can be the place where we sit when thinking about our own difficulties or interceding with God on behalf of our family and friends. It can be a place of meditation where we keep a copy of the scriptures or our Sunday missal. It can be the place where we keep our rosary and where we use it to enlist the help of Mary in times of trouble.
In this way pilgrimage becomes part of our lives, the sacred begins to permeate our homes enabling the love of God to radiate out from there to the world around us.
I’m not asking you to turn your homes into a Church but just to have a small corner set apart for prayer, a small place where we can easily express the love of our Savior, Jesus Christ.
Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
July 19, 2015
Sixteenth Sunday: The Twenty-third Psalm
Ages and ages ago I went to a public grade school. There were no computers back in those days, no ipads or ipods, no cell phones, no DVR’s, in fact, it wasn’t until I was about 10 that people started buying color TV’s. My school days were so long ago, that the children in public schools actually began their school day with prayer. Imagine that if you can. It wasn’t much, though. Someone would read from the Bible, then everyone would say the Lord’s Prayer, with the Catholic kids not saying “Thine is the Kingdom, the Power and the Glory”, because that was the Protestant version of the Our Father, not the Catholic version, and God forbid that Catholics do anything Protestant.
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time
Mark 6: 30–34
We can almost picture the disciples telling Jesus excitedly about how busy and successful they have been. They are tired now but also elated. In a contemporary setting, we might well expect Jesus to say, “Well done. Keep up the good work. In fact, you might want to pick up the pace just a little.” But he says instead, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time,Year B—July 19, 2015
Jesus took His apostles away for a quiet retreat after their exhausting preaching mission. It didn’t go exactly as planned. Why?
Gospel (Read Mk 6:30-34)
St. Mark tells us that when the apostles returned to Jesus after a busy mission of preaching and healing (see Mk 6:7-13), He wanted them to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile.” They all went off in a boat so they could have an opportunity to catch their breath, because “people were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” This simple description gives us an idea of how intense Jesus’ public ministry got at times. It’s easy for us to forget that although there were times of quiet for Jesus and the Twelve, they lived and moved amidst crowds of people with pressing needs. This invitation to rest after their work is an echo of the Creation story, when God worked and then rested.