22Jul 22 July. 16th Sunday

1st Reading: Jeremiah (23:1-6)

I will raise up for David a righteous Branch

The Lord says, “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: “It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings,” says the Lord.

“Then I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and multiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing,” says the Lord.

“The days are surely coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.'”

Resp. Psalm (Ps 23)

R./: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want

The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
he gives me repose;
Near restful waters he leads me;
to revive my drooping spirit. (R./)

He guides me along the right path
for the sake of his name.
Though I walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your rod and your staff
with these you give me courage. (R./)

You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes;
my head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing. (R./)

Surely goodness and kindness will follow me
all the days of my life;
In the house of the Lord shall I dwell
for ever and ever. (R./)

2nd Reading: Epistle to the Ephesians 2:13-18)

A people brought near by the blood of Christ

Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both groups into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us. He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new humanity in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it. So he came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

Gospel: Mark (6:30-34)

Quiet retreat; then a return to serve the crowd

The apostles gathered around Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.


Rest a while

Our current culture of distraction seems to privilege busyness (the modern heresy of “activism”). It is, of course, an illusion to confuse hyperactivity with productivity or, even worse, administration with ministry. When people involved in ministry go on retreat, the first two days are often spent sleeping—itself instructive! It is often only when we stop that we realise how much we are in need of rest and refreshment. While there is always more to be done, we have to choose how to use our time. An approach of “selective neglect” is not without its value, as recommended in The Joy of the Gospel.

Prayer: God of life and abundance, you call us to be bearers of the living and joy-filled Gospel. Help us to recognise our own need of time with you and refreshment in spirit.

(Kieran O’Mahony. For his commentary on today’s readings, click here)

The Attentive Gaze Of Jesus

(Jose Antonio Pagola)

Mark describes the situation in detail. Jesus sets out in the boat with his disciples towards a quiet, out-of-the-way place. He wants to give them his full attention, since they have returned tired after their first evangelizing foray and they’re wanting to share their experience with the Prophet who sent them. But the plan gets frustrated when the people discover his destination and get there before him by running along the shore. When Jesus and his little group arrive at the place, there is a crowd there from the surrounding area. How will Jesus react?

If Mark graphically describes this scene, it is because the disciples in their turn have to learn how to treat the people. In the Christian communities it must be remembered how Jesus was with people who needed him, but who have no one to care about them. «He saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length».

The first thing the Gospel notes is Jesus’ compassionate gaze. He doesn’t get irritated that his plans have been interrupted. He lets his gaze linger on them and he’s moved within. He never gets annoyed at the people. His heart senses their disorientation and the abandonment. In the Church we need to learn to gaze at the people as Jesus did, sensing the suffering, the loneliness, the confusion or that many suffer. Compassion doesn’t spring from paying attention to norms or remembering our duties. It awakens in us when we look attentively at those who suffer.

Jesus understands the deepest needs of those people: they go about «like sheep without a shepherd». The teaching they get from the teachers of the Law doesn’t offer them the nourishment they need. They live without anyone truly caring for them, to help them thrive with a suitable spirituality. They have no shepherd to guide and defend them. Moved by compassion, he «set himself to teach them at some length». Calmly, unhurriedly, he patiently sets out to teach them the Good News of God. He doesn’t do it because of obligation. He’s not thinking of himself. He communicates the Word of God to them, moved by the need that they have for a shepherd.

We can’t ignore the fact that many people within our Christian communities want and need more solid instruction than what they’re getting. We shouldn’t accept as normal the religious disorientation within the Church. If quite a few Christians seek to be better fed we need to respond lucidly.. We need shepherds who share with them the message of Jesus.

Shepherds for today

In much of Western society there is a crisis of authority nowadays. Merely being placed in charge no longer ensures unquestioning obedience. The ideal leader today is one who can win respect and generate trust, one with an obvious sense of responsibility, who can get things done while respecting other people’s dignity and feelings. Shepherds in faith are people of integrity who care for others (Jeremiah); people who help us follow the right path (Psalm), and show compassion toward others in their weakness (Gospel). The shepherd image does not apply only to bishops as the official “pastors” in succession to the apostles, or to the local pastors in the parish. The shepherd role applies in one way or another to all kinds of leadership, in the household and social spheres as well as in matters of faith. We are invited today by God’s word to examine what sort of leadership we ourselves provide for others.

The shepherds condemned by Jeremiah were the leaders who turned a blind eye and let abuses thrive. His message today might be to political figures, ministers and government officials at all levels, who have the task of keeping public order, defending the rights of citizens and promoting fairness for all, insofar as possible. The shepherd image suggests that authority is not mainly the power to impose rules. The shepherding role is one of service more than dominion. Its goal is to set a good direction and enable a community to live together in peace, where each individual has dignity and an equal chance of personal fulfilment.

While the term shepherd rightly applies to spiritual leaders, prelates can sometimes push the image too far, seeming to treat their people more like sheep to be driven than as intelligent human beings to be persuaded. In today’s world, the “Father knows best” attitude is not well received. As pope Francis so effectively points out, our clergy cannot rule by formal decree but must try to win minds and hearts, and communicate an inspiring vision, suited to our times. They must trust the maturity of their people, and promote a sense of owning the Church we belong to.

Besides the official leaders of Church and State, many others must offer pastoral leadership at a local and domestic level. Parents and teachers are the most obvious examples of this. In practice it is they who help to develop a child’s character, laying the foundations for growth into adult maturity. They pass on values by which young people can live, and foster qualities that can grow over the years. For this they need the sensitivity and compassion shown by Jesus in today’s Gospel. “He had compassion for them and began to teach them many things.”

Contemplative moments

In July many are in the middle of their annual holidays. We all need a break from our routine, whatever that routine might be. Most of the time we go on holidays with somebody, or we go away to stay with somebody. Most of us like to be with others when we are away from our routine. In the gospel we find Jesus taking his disciples away together for a period of rest and quiet. They have had a busy time and were full of all they had done and taught and wanted to share it all with Jesus. He suggests a change of pace and of location, to take them away to a quiet place, where they could rest. This was to be a time of reflection in the company of Jesus, a time when they did nothing except be present to each other and to the Lord.

In our own faith life we all need quiet moments, times when we try to be present to the Lord and to each other. We have a prayer group in the parish that meets on a Mon. night; it is a desert moment, a short period of about 30 minutes when people sit in silence having listened to a short talk. We have another prayer group that meets on a Tue. evening, when a group of people gather around the gospel for the following Sunday, and listen to it in silence for about thirty minutes and then share a little on how it has spoken to them. These are times when people are present to the Lord and to each other in a more intense way than is usually the case. They are little desert moments that people can share together, times when we can come away to rest for a while in the Lord’s presence and in the presence of other believers. Our church here is open every day until about 6.00 pm. Our church is that sort of desert space in the middle of our community. It is a place to which people can come away and rest for a while, in the words of the gospel. The silence can be an opportunity to share with the Lord what has been going on in our lives, just as in the gospel the disciples shared with Jesus all they had been doing and teaching. Other people can have that desert moment by going for a walk. As we walk we can become aware of the Lord and his presence to us, and we can become more aware of people in our lives, even though we may be walking alone. However we do it, as believers, as followers of the Lord, we all need to come away to some lonely place all by ourselves and rest for a while so that as to allow the Lord to be in a deeper communion with us.

If the first part of the gospel proclaims that value of coming away from our everyday cares, in order to be present to the Lord, the second part proclaims another value. The lonely place suddenly became a crowded place, even before Jesus and his disciples had reached the place. Jesus and his disciples stepped out of the boat not into quietness and peace but into human need and demand. We are all familiar with that kind of experience. We plan something and it doesn’t work out. We go somewhere expecting something and the opposite transpires. We want to be alone and we are inundated with people. Jesus and his disciples experienced a major interruption to what they were intending. Interruptions are part of all our lives, and as one writer put it, God is often to be found in the interruptions. Jesus responded to the interruption by become completely present to it. He did not try to avoid the crowd or to send them away; he became fully present to them. In the words of the gospel, ‘he took pity on them’, ‘he had compassion for them.’ That is very much at the heart of our own calling as the Lord’s followers, to be present to others, even when they turn up unexpectedly and interrupt what we had carefully planned. It is so easy to get worked up and irritated when something happens that is not part of the script we had in our head. We can be so fixed on that script that we can look on people as nuisances instead of being present to them with the compassion of Jesus. Jesus had the habit of spending time alone with God; it was those times of presence to God in prayer that enabled him to be present to others, no matter who they were or how they turned up. Our own coming away to be with the Lord will help us too to be present to those who come into our lives. Our contemplative moments, our desert times, help us to be contemplative, attentive, in our way of relating to those who cross our path in life.

Machtnamh: Aoirí don aimsear láithreach

I ngach réimse inniú tá géarchéim údaráis ann. Díreach mar gheall ar bheith i gceannas ní chinntíonn sé a thuilleadh géilliúntais dílseacht agus neamhcheistiú. Ceannairí oiriúnaigh do’n lá atá inniu ann, ní mór dóibh bheith ábalta meas agus iontaobhas a ghiniúint, duine de dhearcadh freagrachta soiléir, ar féidir leis (nó léí) rudaí a chur chun cinn gan dearmad a dhéanamh ar mhothúcháin daoine eile. Is iad na haoirí sa chreideamh daoine a thugann aire do dhaoine eile (Jeremiah); ceannairí a chuidíonn linn leanúint ar an mbealach ceart (Salm), agus a thaispeánann trua ar dhaoine eile ina laige (Soiscéal). Ní bhaineann an íomhá an aoire leis na heaspaig amháin, mar tréadaithe oifigiúla agus oidhrí na n’aspal, nó leis na sagairt pharóiste. Baineann glaochaint an aoire ar shlí éigean le gach cineál ceannaireachta, sa réimse teaghlaigh agus sóisialta chomh maith agus le cúrsaí creidimh. Tugann focal Dé cuireadh dúinn inniú scrúdú a dhéanamh ar an gcineál ceannaireachta a chuireann muid féin ar fáil do dhaoine eile.

2 Responses

  1. Brian Fahy

    Come away…and rest for a while

    24/7 has become the defining description of modern life. Every hour of every day is accounted for and filled with our human activity. I remember the first time I saw an all night shop, open 24 hours, it said – it was in Dublin, in Rathgar, not far from Marianella, the old Redemptorist house. Maybe I don’t get out enough, but that was where I first saw one.

    Work, rest and play, that old formula for the routines of life, has now become work, play and crash out. Work is ever more demanding in our consumer society. Play has become hard work as we queue in airports to get away and lie on a foreign beach, and sleep is something we dearly wish for as many people crash out with pills or alcohol at the end of the day. Even sleep is becoming a problem for so many people as our ability to slow down and allow our bodies and minds to chill has been lost to modern demands and progress.

    In a world that belongs to us and not to God anymore, our feverish need to be up and doing and sorting life out, leaves no room for slowing down and being still and allowing our whole being to rest and recuperate and recreate our energies and inspirations for living. We no longer know what rest is.

    The demands placed on Jesus as his fame grew also began to play havoc with his balance of life, and his relations, on one occasion, turned up to take him away, convinced that he was losing the plot, since he could not even have a meal in peace. Today’s story shows more demands being made as a crowd of people follow him, hungry for more from this inspirational preacher and teacher and healer.

    Seeing how lost and leaderless they were, Jesus feels for them and sets about his work of teaching once more, teaching them, no doubt, how to live their lives. Isn’t that what we all need? Words of wisdom and good directions about how to take charge of ourselves and to live each day we meet.

    One of the advices that Jesus would give would be precisely what he had just said to his disciples. Come away from the busy world and be by yourself and rest for a while. Let silence do its healing work. Discover how good it is to ‘come home to yourself’ and see what healing happens when you allow yourself to be still. Learn how healing it is to have a quiet conversation one to one with someone you love and trust, and you will be recreated in body, mind and spirit.

    Our constant media world of television and Internet and Iphones and God knows what else keeps us glued to the noise and disturbance of the ephemeral world and all the things that do not matter. We have become victims of our own cleverness. We are living constantly interrupted lives, with no silence, no calmness of spirit and no rest in which to bathe our broken hearts and wearied minds.

    Work is a great thing and as my mammy often said, it can be a blessed panacea to take our minds off troubles. Play is very healthy for us, and a source of great joy and fun. But ‘rest’ has become the lost art, the unappreciated gift and the forgotten grace of life.

    In your examination of self and your way of living, ask yourself, ‘how do I rest? Do I know how to rest?’ The words of the Lord are addressed to us today.

    ‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while.’

    Brian Fahy

  2. Brian Fahy

    Words of life

    We all want to hear good news. It lifts our spirits and makes us happy. But the world is full of bad news and our media-connected world brings bad news to us like an avalanche. Being on the receiving end of bad news is bad news for us! It depresses our spirit and makes us sad. There is something to be said for avoiding all news bulletins and reports. They only serve to weigh us down and as we get older we have little energy or inclination to hear or bear any more negative stuff. We need to hear and to be able to sing a better song.

    The people of Galilee long ago were eager to hear good news. They ran after it and they found it in Jesus, the young preacher of Nazareth. His good news was a key and an interpretation of life that was inspirational to hear. If we want to hear something of that news the Sermon on the Mount will give us the flavour and the Beatitudes will remind us of the secret of life.

    Every Sunday morning the Holy Father stands at the window of his apartment in Rome and speaks this good news to the assembled people there. Hearing God’s words spoken will always be a blessing on our life.

    It takes great energy to listen to all the words that are said to us each day, and too often, sadly, the words we hear are heavy and even hurtful to our soul. That should be enough to remind us how careful we should be in every word we say in life.

    Jesus not only spoke good news to people. He was good news to people in every encounter. It is a calling that the Lord extends to all his followers. The cut and thrust of human life does not demand that we be hostile or hurtful to others. Sabbath rest and silence in the presence of the Lord is a constant resource and reservoir of grace from which we may draw the good words that come from God.

    The battles that we have to fight, be they in church or society at large, be they personal and close to home, do not require us to become vicious people. Fight the good fight is the watchword. Let Sabbath rest be that true resource from which we may enter the world anew and bring good news to people who are sorely in need.

    The Lord calls us not only to bring good news to a weary world, but to be good news in our own selves. That is some calling!

    Brian Fahy

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