Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
July 18, 2021 Cycle B
by Rev. Jose Maria de Sousa Alvim Calado Cortes, F.S.C.E.
Chaplain, Saint John Paul II National Shrine
Sunday Reading Meditations
Today’s Gospel gives us a glimpse of Jesus’ infinite compassion toward the tired and lost multitudes. The evangelist says: “[…] his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). Jesus invites the apostles to go to a deserted place and rest with him: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mk 6:31).
In a different passage, Jesus says: “Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest” (Mt 11:28).
We find rest in Jesus because “he is our peace” (Eph 2:14). The Hebrew word shalom means wholeness, well-being and fullness of blessing. As today’s responsorial psalm says, “He refreshes my soul […] He guides me in right paths” (Ps 23:3,4).
We find rest in Jesus because “through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father” (Eph 2:18).
Entry into God’s rest is promised in the Old Testament. As Psalm 95 says, we need to listen to his voice: “Oh, that today you would hear his voice: do not harden your hearts” (Ps 95:7–8). However, God’s rest can be lost: “Forty years I loathed that generation; I said: ‘This people’s heart goes astray; they do not know my ways.’ Therefore I swore in my anger: ‘They shall never enter my rest’” (Ps 95:10–11). That is why the author of the Letter to the Hebrews declares: “Therefore, let us strive to enter into that rest, so that no one may fall after the same example of disobedience” (Heb 4:11).
We find true rest for our souls in Jesus’ voice. Today’s alleluia refrain says: “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.”
In the Book of Revelation, Jesus says: “If anyone hears my voice and opens the door to me, I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me” (Rev 3:20).
In today’s first reading, the prophet Jeremiah criticizes the shepherds of Israel who failed to care for the sheep: “You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds” (Jer 23:2). Those called by God to shepherd his people should ponder these words when they make an examination of conscience.
Popularity is a great temptation in our times. The desire for fame and acclaim often prevents clergy from consistently following the example of the Good Shepherd. The hearts of those called to lead God’s people should burn with the same fire that inflames Jesus’ heart and be filled with his compassion for the vast multitudes. To be a good shepherd, one must first accept the invitation to rest in the Lord and experience that “he is our peace.”
Today’s tired and lost multitudes need courageous shepherds to lead them toward verdant pastures and restful waters. We need shepherds who help us pass from our former ways to the newness of life. God promises his people in today’s first reading that he “will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble” (Jer 23:4).
Jesus is our peace! Let us find rest in him! Amen.