The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 22, 2018
Fr. José Maria Alvim Cortes, F.S.C.B.

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In the name of the Father, of the Son, and the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Today’s Gospel reminds me of an episode in my life, many years ago, when I was sixteen. I was trying to discern my vocation, to decide whether or not to enter the seminary, so I went to the seminary on a retreat. The retreat ended and I had not received any light to help me make my choice. The seminary is located on a hill facing Lisbon, on the other side of a big river, the Tagus, which crosses the city. To come back home, I had to take a ferryboat. It was rush hour. When the boat arrived at the dock and I disembarked, I was surprised by a huge crowd of people coming home from work. Their faces were tired and sad. While I was watching them coming toward the boat, I thought of today’s Gospel, where it says: “When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). I realized that this was the light I had been searching for during my retreat, that vocation to the priesthood is to share Jesus’ pity for the crowds who are troubled and abandoned, to participate in his passion for the world.

In the first reading, God accuses the shepherds: “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them” (Jer 23:2). This accusation makes us think about what we are doing. It is an invitation to examine our consciences.

A true shepherd is one who helps people walk toward their destiny, who helps them find Christ, who helps them to experience that the Lord is their shepherd; they shall not want (cf. Ps 23).

In the Gospel, Jesus says to the apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mk 6:30). The Twelve were enthusiastic about what they had done and taught. Jesus invited the apostles to rest a while in a deserted place, to rest physically but also, more than that, to rest in him, to be with him.

Saint Charles Borromeo once said to his priests: “Is your task the care of souls? Then do not neglect your own. Do not spend yourself so completely on other people that you have nothing left for yourself. Of course you have to look after the souls you have been put in charge of but not to the extent that you forget your own.”

With these words, Saint Charles is saying the same thing that Jesus said to the apostles: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” We really need to have a time of silence and prayer. In a parish, there are always so many things to do: the telephone never stops ringing, there are cascades of e-mails. Many problems are brought to the rectory every day, usually more problems than solutions. There is the risk of activism, to respond to everything solely through action.

Activism is action without a purpose.

To be shepherds, we need to be shepherded by Jesus. We need to spend time with him, time to pray. We need time to bring all the pains and needs of the crowd to him.

When we have to face crowds, we need to bring something greater than ourselves with us. When we preach, we should not preach ourselves but the One who sent us, our own experience of conversion, the acceptance of Jesus in our lives that we can share with you.

All these things that I am saying are for priests. However, mutatis mutandis, by changing those things that need to be changed, I think they can apply to all of us.

Let us pray that we may always recognize Jesus as the Shepherd of our lives, as the One who gives us the repose that we need. Let us ask Jesus to increase his love in us for the crowds that we encounter.  Amen.

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