Lanie LeBlanc OP
Carol & Dennis Keller
Brian Gleeson CP
Paul O'Reilly SJ
reflection can be here!)
Sun. 16 B 2021
"Shepherds" in our day have come to mean anyone who has
lawful authority or leadership over a person or a group,
"shepherds" such as religious or government leaders or
parents, school officials or leaders of organizations. The
actions or non-actions of some "shepherds" who sullied and
defiled their profession in our first reading or who do so
today are particularly evil because of the inherent trust
that is placed in someone who then willfully stoops so low
or who is just horribly negligent. Flashes of such things as
pedophile scandals, financial scams, and uneven distribution
of Covid vaccinations or care push hard against reasonable
righteousness and justice. It is right and just to know that
the mighty reaction of the people against such oppressors
pales in comparison to the justice of the Lord upon those
who do not repent of that kind of evildoing. Our just anger
does need to be soothed, however, and redirected.
The 23rd Psalm helps to do that as does the Lord's own
words in the first reading where we are promised personal
and caring shepherding. Jesus himself provides an example of
such personal shepherding in today's gospel account where he
not only provides caring direction for the tired apostles
but pity for the vast crowd of followers who were in such
need of good shepherding. It seems that times have not
changed much nor the need for a true shepherd, just the
details of the human condition!
Even without reference to publicly known scandals, there
are still so many other challenges that society faces as
well as personal ones that individuals have. Couldn't you
use a personal "shepherd" right now, one who would care for
and guide you through whatever is bombarding you in your
life? Life partners, counselors and life coaches, and even
those people whom we know in our everyday lives who do
exhibit the traits of Jesus himself surely do help as do
many present religious and political leaders who seem to be
on the right track.
I think we need something More, individually and
collectively. Right now and for always, we need to look to
the Good Shepherd! A re-focus on the Good Shepherd is
soothing balm for those lingering thoughts of horrific
events that may have touched us or our family personally as
well as giving us strength for the times of betrayal that
might be ahead. That blessed assurance will indeed help to
heal wounds. It will also empower us to act more like the
Good Shepherd to others. "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordered Time July 18, 2021
Jeremiah 23:1-6; Responsorial Psalm 23; Ephesians
2:13-18; Gospel Acclamation John 10:27; Mark 6:30-34
Many will call this Good Shepherd Sunday. We start our
liturgy of the Word with a selection from the great,
reluctant prophet Jeremiah. Our psalm response to that
reading is the beautiful and much used Psalm 23 which
insists that God is my shepherd who leads me along right
paths. Even the selection from Paul’s letter to the
Ephesians can be interpreted as touting the shepherd like
qualities of Jesus. For it is Jesus who leads us from enmity
to peace and reconciliation with one another so that we
become one body, one flock. "For through him we both have
access in one Spirit to the Father." In the gospel, Mark
presents Jesus’ evaluation of the state of the spirit of the
vast crowd. They are like sheep without a shepherd. In their
need, the crowds come to Jesus and the disciples, hoping for
words of wisdom, seeking relief from the monotony of
recurring efforts at survival in body as well as in spirit.
In this context, Mark tells us that Jesus began to teach the
crowd many things.
The great danger of the Scriptures occurs when we hear
them proclaimed and think of those events as the past. We
receive these as stories of history, calling our minds and
hearts back to former times in the long ago and far away.
The danger of the Scriptures is that we perceive those
writings as entertainment. Many have insisted their lives
would be different if they had lived in the presence of the
Christ. If only they could see Jesus and walk with him, what
a difference it would make in their decisions and thoughts.
Their attitudes and allegiance to the God of the Covenants
would be easier to live. Commitment to the Creator would be
always in the front of mind.
The reality is that what has happened in the past is
often the source of understanding and working with what is
happening in the present. Things constantly change. Each
generation faces new challenges to living in accord with the
Will of the Creator. Those challenges arise in nature. See
what is happening to our climate as the normative
temperatures of the world steadily rise. Even slight
increases have devastating effects on the earth’s ability to
produce food and potable water. Those changes relate to
technology. We have the capacity to understand more
intensely the complexity of everything through the
application of technology. We have ability to travel to
distant lands in hours instead of months. We have the
capacity to converse with persons on the other side of the
world in instants instead of weeks of snail mail. Farmers
who once thought a hundred bushel to the acre corn was
exceptional now consider such a yield marginal. In all this,
there remains this one constant. Our relationships are
fragile, our reactions more violent, our future more
uncertain because of the great improvement in the
destructive power of our weapons.
Instead of relationships improving, nations appear ever
more committed to conflict and unbridled competition. Even
though manufacturing has improved the tolerances of
machinery so that mechanicals are ever more enduring use and
lasting longer, there remains a huge supply of manufactured
junk that pollutes our oceans, our rivers, our land –
creating huge mountains of trash. The stresses of our times
fragment families, pit neighbor against neighbor. Businesses
seek dominance by merging, buying competitors, and applying
cut-throat methods of advertising, pricing, and market
dominance. If one cannot buy out a competitor, then one must
discover ways of driving them to bankruptcy.
This has ever been the situation with humanity. Of
course, contemporary technology, techniques, and scientific
based improvements in production systems and techniques have
accelerated this doom and gloom scenario. We believe that
our living has been improved by what is modern. The
trappings of living have certainly improved. Health care has
extended human life by decades. Agriculture has improved its
technics so that one farmer can feed fifty times more people
than a farmer a century ago could have. Yet, are we any more
at peace? Are we any more delighted with the gift of life?
Are we any more connected with our families? Are we any more
at peace with neighbors, communities, the state, the nation,
and other nations?
Perhaps negative response to those questions come to us
from the same cause that ruined the nations of Israel and of
Juda. The seeking for power, for wealth, and for status
among the nations was the undoing of Israel, that break away
nation of the Hebrew people. Perhaps the reading from
Jeremiah this Sunday holds for us the seeds of our current
malaise. Idolatry is much the same today as it was three
thousand years ago. The human race quickly forgets its
errors. The kings of Israel and of Juda entertained false
gods of the pagans, even installing images of those gods in
their temples. Jeremiah in the reading this Sunday shouts to
the temple crowd and to the political forces of his time.
"Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of
my pasture, says the Lord." Can we not shout along with
Jeremiah about the secular and the religious situation of
Just a note about idolatry of power, wealth, and status.
None of these are idolatry by themselves. It is when we
commit ourselves to the acquisition of power, the
accumulation of wealth, or the all-consuming courting
adulation of the crowd that we make those three idols. When
those become more important than our families, our
neighbors, our state, our nation, and our world, then we
have installed those as idols in the temples of our hearts.
The times and the circumstances of our time have clearly
changed. But do not the human hearts of humanity remain
unrepentant of the idolatry Jeremiah observed in his time?
Are we not in the crowd that sought Jesus in the desert
place, looking for a way to overcome their anxieties and
fears? Are we not a flock flittering here and there without
purpose, without a grasp of the truth of our living? Where
are the answers to our burdens?
This Sunday we sing the responsorial psalm often used at
memorial services and church and secular funeral
remembrances. "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I
shall want." Following the Lord, we discover places in life
where we are nourished, watered, and where we can grow in
peace. Human life is not about merely adhering to laws.
Christian – for that matter, all religions – living is about
growing in closer and more intimate relationship with
creation, with other persons, and thus through those
relationships to a closer and more intimate union with God.
Paul tells us this in the last line of the selection of his
letter to the Ephesians. "He came and preached peace to you
who were far off and peace to those who were near, for
through him we both have access in one Spirit to the
Father." Growth in our relationship to each other and to God
is what living is about. Idolatry gets in the way of it.
Listen again to Jeremiah: "Woe to the shepherds who
mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord."
Such shepherds are condemned. Even so there are many of us
who are taken in by those charlatans, those purveyors of
falsehood, those firebrands of violence and hatred. By what
standards are there by which we can discern the false
shepherds? How will we know who to listen to and who to
jeer? Again, Paul teaches us just as Jesus taught the crowd
who searched for him even in the desert. Shepherds ought to
be heard who teach peace and lead us to grateful and
appreciative relationships with creation, with other
persons, and with the God of truth. Those who seek to divide
us, those who constantly encourage violence to achieve
goals, those who disrespect the poor, the widows, the
handicapped, those of minority standing because of color,
national origin, language, faith tradition, poor health, of
limited education: those are the shepherds who would mislead
and scatter us for their own purposes. They are not
shepherds but ravenous wolves and lions using the flock as
prey for their insatiable hunger. Those are the contemporary
pharaohs. In the ancient stories of the Hebrews in Egypt, it
is the pharaoh who enslaves, robs the nation of freedom. Can
we not understand the contemporary pharaohs who seek to
enslave all of us as they seek autocracy and tyrannical
power? If we think this applies solely to secular
leadership, we are mistaken. There are pharaohs as well in
the religious cultures.
But let us not resort to finger-pointing, to scapegoating
to relieve us of soul-searching because of this Sunday’s
readings. Repeatedly, the Catholic tradition insists
baptized members are "priests, prophets, and kings."
Kingship, in its original iteration, was very much like the
duties of a shepherd. The king/queen’s central
responsibility was the safety and flourishing of the flock,
of the people. It was not self-serving idolatry of status or
power or wealth. It was a service. Thus, it is that through
our baptism we are indeed shepherds of all we encounter.
These readings are a call to action to take seriously our
responsibilities as shepherds. We are to be concerned with
the safety and the flourishing of the flock. If we, as
Jeremiah shouts, mislead and scatter, we must repent. We
must be responsible for our relationships, our speech, our
attitudes, our choices. We, baptized members of the Assembly
Called Together, are called to care and feed the members of
the Assembly, the Church. But not only Catholic churchgoers:
we are called to gather and provide security and nourishment
to all people of the world. Even more than this: we are
called to for safety and the nourishment of all of creation.
That is a huge job, a herculean task. If we are taught by
Jesus, we know we have an advocate present to us even now in
these latter days, in this final epoch of God’s creation.
The Spirit is with us. As shepherds we must be attentive to
the Spirit’s whispering. Through the moments and
relationships of daily living we have the opportunity to
become more and more aware of God’s presence in the Spirit.
The advice of a great Rabbi in the Jewish tradition gives us
a clue. He was asked when the messiah would come. He
replied, "He is here now, if only you look for him."
FEEDING THE HUNGRY: 16TH SUNDAY B
There are at least three kinds of hunger. There is a
hunger for bread, for the food and drink that satisfy
physical hunger and nourish physical health and life. There
is emotional hunger, a hunger for acceptance and welcome,
affirmation and affection from others. And there is
spiritual hunger. For Christians, this is a craving for
Christ and his company. As a famous song puts it, in words
of St Richard of Chichester, this hunger is a longing 'to
see him more clearly, love him more dearly, and follow him
more nearly, day by day'.
Mother Teresa of Calcutta has spelt out well these three
kinds of hunger:
Your poverty is greater than ours ... the spiritual
poverty of the West is much greater than the physical
poverty of the East. In the West, there are millions of
people who suffer loneliness and emptiness, who feel unloved
and unwanted. They are not the hungry in the physical sense;
what is missing is a relationship with God and with each
In our gospel today, we meet people who are experiencing
those three kinds of hunger. Their greatest hunger is for
the company of Jesus, for the enlightenment and truth of his
teachings, and for the warmth and comfort of his
understanding, kindness and compassion. They are also
feeling the pangs of physical hunger and hoping he can
relieve those as well.
Looking for a little rest and recreation, Jesus sails
away with his friends for the eastern shore of the lake. But
seeing where the boat is heading, the crowds hurry along the
shore and are already waiting for them at the other side.
You can imagine what you and I might have thought and even
said about this. Jesus too might easily have felt annoyed
and resentful. He might easily have moaned and groaned: 'Why
won't they leave us alone for a while? Why won't they let us
have a bit of time to ourselves? Why won't they give us just
a little peace and quiet? Why won't they stay away? Why
But Jesus thinks no such thoughts. He thinks only of
them, of their need for him, and for the love and assistance
he can provide as their Good Shepherd. Sensing their longing
to be with him and seeing so many sick and troubled persons
among them, his heart overflows with compassion. And so, he
goes from one little group to the other - listening to them,
talking to them, comforting them, and healing their
physically and mentally sick ones. In this way the longing
they have felt to be with him, and their need for acceptance
and welcome, affirmation and affection, are satisfied.
All this has much to say to us as the disciples of Jesus
in the world today. We must face, first of all, the physical
hunger of millions of our fellow human beings. Can we any
longer feel indifferent concerning so much conspicuous
consumption and so much waste in our Western world, when so
many persons are deprived of the basic necessities of life
and are even starving to death? What will Jesus say to us on
Judgment Day? Will it be: 'I was hungry, and you gave me
food? I was thirsty and you gave me a drink' (Mt 25:35-36)?
Or will it be: ‘I was hungry and you never gave me any food,
I was thirsty and you never gave me anything to drink' (Mt
In the second place, there are all around us so many
deprived and lonely people who are craving for even a little
bit of affirmation, acceptance, and affection. The
widespread problems of so many runaway and homeless
children, of drug addiction, of domestic violence, of
suicide, are but symptoms of deep unsatisfied longings to be
loved and to love. Can you and I be at least a little more
sensitive, a little more responsive, a little more active
and caring towards so many lost and lonely persons? And will
we want Jesus to say to us: 'I was a stranger and you made
me welcome, lacking clothes and you clothed me, sick and you
visited me, in prison and you came to see me (Mt 25:36-37)'?
Jesus has clearly identified himself with people in
physical, emotional and spiritual need. To meet them is to
meet him. 'In truth I tell you,’ he says, 'in so far as you
did this to one of the least of these brothers and sisters
of mine, you did it to me' (Mt 25:40-41) and 'in so far as
you neglected to do this to one of the least of these, you
neglected to do it to me' (Mt 25:45).
It’s the same Jesus whom we meet today in our celebration
of the Eucharist, as the Jesus who took pity on the crowd of
hungry people on the shore of the lake. He will shortly be
nourishing our friendship with him in the signs of bread and
wine, so as to empower us to become more and more like him.
And at the end of our celebration of him and his teachings,
he will be sending us back into the world as a source of
nourishment to others, by reaching out to them with our
words and actions of acceptance and welcome, affirmation and
Fed, then, by our holy communion with him, may we do more
than ever before to satisfy the physical, emotional and
spiritual hungers of all those needy persons out there, whom
God keeps putting on our paths, to nourish them with
practical signs of God’s own compassionate and caring love.
Gleeson CP" <email@example.com>
Year B: 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time
"They were like sheep without a shepherd."
Some people, even some Christians, wonder whether being a
Christian really matters and whether having a Church and a
priest and people going to Mass every Sunday really makes
any actual difference in the world. I admit that I
occasionally have those doubts myself. But then I think of
the flocks of sheep that I have known without a shepherd.
You see, I once saw an actual flock of sheep without a
shepherd. It was in the Rupununi in South America. I don’t
know how it had happened, but a group of sheep had run wild
on the open savannahs in the dry season. And they were in
terrible condition – the Rupununi is not good sheep country.
They were thin, scrawny and sick – obviously they didn’t
know where to go to get enough grass and water. Their coats
were matted and unsheared and far too heavy for them in the
hot sun. And they were full of fear. Nobody could go near
them; nobody could lead them. Nobody could protect them from
the dogs and the jaguars. And over the few months they were
around, they gradually got fewer and fewer in number until –
all too soon - there were none left. I come from a family of
sheep farmers – and it broke my heart.
Then a few months after that I had to go on a medical
trip into another area – a long way from the Christian
villages where I mostly worked. And I was shocked at how the
people were living. Nearly all of the men were drunk – all
the time! Nearly all the women were sad and depressed.
Nearly all the children were malnourished and sick. Never
have I seen – before or since – such desolation in an
Amerindian area. I was shocked!
And for several days, I simply could not understand what
had happened. Finally, quite by accident, I asked the right
question: "Where is the Church?"
I was actually only asking the way – but it was a more
profound question than I realised. They showed me an old
building – the mud walls falling in; the thatched roof
rotten and eaten away; the door held up only by the padlock
that kept the people out.
"What happened?!!" I asked, in shock.
"Ah", they said, "we used to have a pastor here. All the
village people came to service. It was a good village then.
People co-operated. People didn’t get drunk. People didn’t
fight. Men didn’t beat their wives. It was a good village
"So what happened?" I asked again.
"He went away to the Coast; got a better job; more
For most of the rest of the day I thought about that
Pastor. And running around in my head were those lines from
Don Mclean’s ‘American Pie’:
"The church bells all were broken.
And the three men I admire most:
The father, son, and the holy ghost,
They caught the last train for the coast
The day the music died."
Some of the time, I felt angry. How could he leave his
people. Like the hired hand, he had run away and left the
people to the wolves. How could he do that?
Other times, I felt sympathetic. Maybe he had a wife and
family to support and he needed the money to provide for
them – to give them a better education and a better way of
life. Charity begins at home. But, however I tried to
explain it to myself, it was terrible to see a flock of
sheep without a shepherd.
But then, I thought, how easy it is to condemn the sin in
other people that we don’t even notice in ourselves – the
splinter in his eye and the plank in our own. The Church is
not just a pastor or a priest. And it doesn’t all fall apart
if the pastor or the priest goes away. The Church is all of
us. We are all shepherds of one another.
Which of us has not at some point betrayed the flock?
Which of us is without Sin?
Which of us has always been faithful to our Christian
Which of us has not failed to speak the Word of God to
people for fear of embarrassment?
Which of us has not betrayed the people of God, just as
that pastor did? And perhaps even without his reasons?
Let us pray that all of us may have the grace to be good
shepherds of His People.
And let us stand and profess our Faith in the Good
Shepherd of us all.
O’Reilly, SJ. <firstname.lastname@example.org>
Volume 2 is for you. Your thoughts, reflections,
and insights on the next Sundays readings can influence the
preaching you hear. Send them to
email@example.com. Deadline is
Wednesday Noon. Include your Name, and Email Address.
-- Fr. John Boll, OP