Abraham Lincoln is one of the well-known and admired Presidents of America. It is believed that he spent practically 75% of the time meeting and interacting with the people. No matter how busy or preoccupied his schedules were, he always found time for those who called on him. The focus of today’s Gospel (Mk 6:30-34) is the Lord Jesus who shepherds. He shepherds the weary disciples who return from their missionary ministry, reporting to him what they had done and taught. His care for his tired and labor-spent disciples is heart-warming: “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while” (Mk 6:31). Indeed, the disciples-apostles who have completed their first mission of preaching repentance, driving away demons and anointing the sick need some quiet rest with their Master-Shepherd.
The Lord Jesus likewise shepherds the pursuing crowd who hunger for the bread of the Word. His response is beautifully described in the Gospel: “His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them with many things” (Mk 6:34). Jesus accomplishes his pastoral care for them by teaching, that is, by nourishing their hungry souls with the bread of the Word. His service of teaching is a “nourishing ministry” and it is an important task in shepherding God’s people. He nourishes those who seek spiritual strength and solace by proclaiming the Gospel.
We see here an example of the kind of tension that exists in the life of every committed Christian. On the one hand, there is the need to draw away to a quiet place and to recharge one’s batteries, to reflect on and evaluate what one has been doing and to regenerate one’s spiritual energy. At the same time, there are constant demands on our commitment to serve. We need to respond generously and empathetically to where there is a real need. The emphasis is on ‘real need’ and not just on the demands of others or our own desire to be in demand. This calls for discernment: there will be times when, with difficulty, we know we should say ‘Yes’. There will be other times when, in spite of the criticism it may generate, we ought to say ‘No’. We need to be available but there is no absolute availability. We are limited in the quality service we can give.
There has to be an integration of contemplation and action, because the driving force derives from the communion with the Lord that we experience in our prayer life. In the life of the saints, there is the blending of nature and of grace, which helped them to have the right priorities to achieve their goal in life. Pope Francis in his encyclical Rejoice and be Glad speaks about holiness is living a life of love and being witness. He speaks about the extra mile that all of us need to make. At the middle of the night the doctor goes to the hospital to save one’s life. The teacher makes an effort to instruct the weaker student. The father finds ample time for his family after a day of hard work. The mother is at the side of a sick child constantly caring in spite of her daily duties. The employer is concerned about his employees. These are all the actions derived not because of duty but a ministry done for the love and glorification of God. The psalm 23 is a reflection of how the Lord involves in our lives.
The Lord is my Shepherd…that’s Relationship!
There is nothing I shall want…that’s Supply!
Fresh and Green are the pastures where He gives me repose…that’s Rest!
Near restful waters He leads me… that’s Refreshment.
He restores my drooping spirit… that’s Healing!
He guides me along the right path… that’s Guidance!
He is true to his name… that’s Purpose!
If I should walk in the valley of darkness… that’s Challenge!
No evil would I fear… that’s Assurance!
You are there … that’s Faithfulness!
With your rod and your staff comfort me… that’s Shelter!
You have prepared a table before me in the presence of mine enemies… that’s Hope!
You have anointed my head with oil… that’s consecration!
My cup is overflowing … that’s Abundance!
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life…that’s Blessing!
And I will dwell in the house of the Lord…that’s Security!
In the second reading (Eph. 2:13-18), we hear again of the redemptive and unifying work of Jesus. He brings peace and reconciliation and makes the Jews and Gentiles one people. He unites people of all races and brings them back to God through his paschal mystery, and in the power of the Holy Spirit. In the pastoral ministry to the people of Israel, and especially through his sacrificial act on the cross by which he accomplished the fullness of his service as Good Shepherd, Jesus Christ leads the dispersed flock back to God the Father. The life-giving sacrifice of the Good Shepherd on the cross is in accord with the divine plan “to restore all things”. Every Christian disciple, by virtue of baptismal consecration and configuration to Jesus Shepherd-King has a duty to seek peace and to work for reconciliation in our fragmented world.