O. T. XVI [B] Sunday (July 18,/2021) 8-minute homily in 1- page
Introduction: Today’s readings explain how God, like a good shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them. The readings also challenge us to become good shepherds to those entrusted to our care, showing them compassion and sensibility and using our God-given authority in the family, in the Church, and in society, with fidelity and responsibility. Today, pastoral ministry includes not only the pastoral care given by those named or ordained as “pastors,” but the loving service given by all Christians who follow different callings to serve and lead others. (A homily starter anecdote may be added)
Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah (sixth century B.C.), thunders against Israel’s careless leaders – the king, some priests, and some court prophets – because they have shown no concern for the poor. The prophet also foretells the rise of a new, good shepherd in the family-line of David. Then he consoles the Israelites enslaved in Babylon, assuring them that God will lead them back to their original pasture in Israel.
Today’s Good Shepherd Psalm (Ps 23) affirms David’s Faith and trust in God, the “Good Shepherd.”
The second reading introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both the Jews and the Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, has reconciled all of us with His Father by offering Himself on the cross. Paul also speaks about another reconciliation between Jews and Gentiles, brought about by Jesus’ accepting both into the same Christian brotherhood.
The reading from the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus as the good shepherd fulfilling God’s promise given through His prophet Jeremiah in the first reading. Here we see Jesus attending the weary apostles, who have just returned, jubilant, from their first preaching mission, while at the same time expressing concern for the people who, like “sheep without a shepherd,” have gathered at their landing place in the wilderness.
Life messages: 1) We need God’s grace to become good shepherds: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back to God again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. We should allow God the opportunity to speak to us and recharge us with spiritual energy and strength by setting aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to Him. He speaks to us powerfully when we spend some time every day reading the Bible devoutly and meditating on the message God gives us in Scripture. We receive strength from God to do our share of the shepherd’s preaching and healing ministry by asking for it individually, in the family, and as a community in the parish Church, participating in the Eucharistic celebration.
2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. Christians must also display the compassion of Jesus by meeting the social and material needs of others by our works of charity as individual Christians and as a parish community.
OT XVI [B] (July 18) Jer 23:1-6, Eph 2:13-18, Mk 6:30-34
Homily starter anecdotes: # 1: “Altar of the Chair:” Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd for people who were like sheep without shepherd. At St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the role of Pope as a teaching shepherd is depicted very powerfully in art. At the very back of the basilica, there is one of the most famous pieces in art history, done by the great sculptor Bernini. It’s called the “Altar of the Chair,” and it was so beautiful and influential that art historians say it was the start of the baroque era. It was Pope Alexander VII who commissioned Bernini to build a sumptuous monument which would give prominence to the ancient wooden chair believed to have been used by St. Peter. Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze richly ornamented with bas-reliefs, in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. At the top of the altar, there is the brilliant translucent image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by angels. The Holy Spirit is descending upon a huge bronze chair which houses what in the 16th century was believed to be the actual chair on which St. Peter sat to teach the people of Rome.
Peter’s chair is a symbol of the teaching authority of the Church and particularly of the Popes, the successors of St. Peter, who are Christ’s Vicars on earth. The most formal teachings of the Church are called “ex cathedra,” meaning literally “from the chair.” Underneath the chair there are four bishops who are all famous teaching saints in the early Church— Eastern: Athanasius, John Chrysostom, and Western: Augustine, and Ambrose—who are depicted referring to and spiritually upholding the teaching authority of the Church and papacy. But the element that is most relevant to today’s Scriptures is found sculpted into the backrest of the Chair. It’s a depiction of Peter feeding Christ’s sheep. It’s a reference to the end of St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied that he did. And Jesus responded, “Feed My lambs,” “Tend My sheep,” and “Feed My sheep.” Peter’s obedience in caring for Christ’s sheep is seen above all, therefore, in his TEACHING of Christ’s truth. Every year on February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to commemorate St. Peter’s Teaching Authority, and teaching in Rome. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 2: Michael Faraday left for a prayer service in a little church: Michael Faraday was a 19th century British physicist and chemist, best known for his discoveries of electromagnetic induction (the principle behind the electric transformer and generator) and of the laws of electrolysis. His biggest breakthrough in electricity was his invention of the electric motor. This great scientist once addressed convocation of scientists. For an hour he held the audience spellbound with his lecture on the electromagnetic induction, electrolysis, electric motor and their future applications. After he had finished, he received a thundering ovation. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, stood to congratulate him. The applause thundered again. Just as quickly, a deadened silence pervaded the audience. Faraday had left. It was the hour of a mid-week prayer service in a little church of which he was a member. Do we have a similar commitment? Like Faraday, have we pledged our allegiances to a Power that outlasts the short-lived fads and governments of this world? One of the reasons we gather for worship each week is for the refreshment of our spirits, the recharging of our spiritual batteries. We need to shut the world out and focus our attention on God’s presence in our lives. Jesus knew the value of getting away to a quiet place. With our families, would we put into practice what the Wall Street Journal suggested a generation ago? “What America needs … is a revival of piety – the piety of our fathers.” Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus takes the worn-out apostles to a lonely place to minister to them and giving them rest and refreshment. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
# 3: Expectant waiting for dear ones: A story from the life of Mother Teresa shows her love for lonely and unwanted people, the “sheep without a shepherd,” who, while materially well-off, are sometimes “the poorest of the poor.” On one occasion, she visited a well-run nursing home where good food, medical care and other facilities were offered to the elderly. As she moved among the old people, she noticed that none of them smiled unless she touched them and smiled at them first. She also noticed that many of them kept glancing expectantly towards the door while listening to her. When she asked one of the nurses why this was so, she was told: “They are looking for a visit from someone related to them. But, except for an occasional visit, birthday gift or a get-well card, this never happens.” Jesus invites us, in today’s Gospel, to show concern, mercy and compassion for such sheep without a shepherd. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
Introduction: Our world, our society and even our Church are divided and somewhat scattered and the division is regrettable and painful. Jesus looks at us with pity as being like the people of first century Israel — scattered as were the sheep of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Paul reminds us that, like the Ephesian and Jewish converts, they who once were divided (pagan versus Jewish) have been brought together through the Blood of Christ as Christians. Individually, too, we are divided, drawn in different directions by our desires and hopes, by requests for help from others, by demands that pressure us beyond the limits of our time and energy. But the pain of reconciliation is bearable because it enables us to identify with Jesus on his cross. Today’s readings also explain how God, like a Good Shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them. They also challenge us to use our God-given authority in the family, in the Church and in society, with fidelity and responsibility.\ “Pastoral” ministry today includes not only the pastoral care given by those named or ordained as “pastors,” but the loving service given by many others who follow different callings to serve and lead others.
The Scripture lessons summarized: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah (sixth century BC), thunders against Israel’s careless leaders – the king, some priests. and some court prophets – because they have shown no concern for the poor. The prophet also foretells the rise of a good, new shepherd in the family line of David. Then he consoles the Israelites enslaved in Babylon, assuring them that God will lead them back to their original pasture in Israel. Today’s Good Shepherd Psalm (Ps 23) affirms David’s Faith and trust in God, the “Good Shepherd.” The second reading introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both Jews and Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the Good Shepherd, reconciled all of us with His Father by offering Himself on the cross. Paul also speaks about another reconciliation, that between the Jews and the Gentiles, brought about by Jesus’ welcome of both into the one Christian brotherhood. The reading from the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus as the Good Shepherd fulfilling God’s promise, given through His 6th Century BC prophet, Jeremiah, in the first reading. Here we see Jesus attending to the weary apostles, who have just returned, jubilant, from their first preaching mission, while expressing concern for the people who, like “sheep without a shepherd,” have gathered to meet their boat, landing on the Galilee shore opening into a wilderness rather than a town. .
First reading, Jeremiah 23:1-6, explained: The prophet Jeremiah lived from about 650 BC to perhaps 580 BC. Most of his work was in Judah’s capital, Jerusalem, trying to keep the people and several kings faithful to God amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing. Jeremiah was blunt about what was right and what was not. He suffered at the hands of the powerful because of his outspokenness. At the time of this prophecy, a good king in Judah had just been replaced by a king who allied Judah to Egypt. Jeremiah was sent by God to rage against this policy, reminding the people and the King that God’s people should trust in God, not in alliances with pagan nations. Some flattering “prophets” of the court backed the King and criticized Jeremiah. But Jeremiah remained a vigorous, courageous, outspoken man. Today we’d say Jeremiah had fire in his belly. Here he thunders on behalf of a God outraged at the powerful people’s neglect of their responsibility to the poor: “I gave you the privileges of a shepherd, you mislead and scatter the flock, I’m about to replace you, and My people will be restored!” Jeremiah assured his audience that Yahweh would give them a “new shepherd,” a new leader who would exercise Yahweh’s care and concern for His people. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the good shepherd God promised through Jeremiah – the one who would shepherd the sheep “so that they need no longer fear and tremble,” and the Davidic king who would do what was just and right in the land. Jeremiah’s prophetic denunciation of faithless servants in the Old Testament is applicable also to our own time. All of us who exercise responsibility in various ministries in the Church, in family life and in society, are called to imitate God’s diligent, effective caring by bringing people together, leading them and showing selfless concern for the subjects we serve for God, rather than taking personal advantage of them.
Second Reading, Ephesians 2:13-18, explained: In this reading, Paul celebrates the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (first reading) of a future shepherd who would gather the dispersed and the scattered into one people of God. This passage explains how Christ has brought about reconciliation between ancient enemies, the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul says that the Jews had been “near” and the Gentiles “far off.” But by becoming Christians, those Jews, who had enjoyed God’s favor for so many generations, have now accepted Christ as the Messiah. The converted Gentiles had long been estranged from God in their worship of pagan gods,. but they, too, have now accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Hence, as Christians, the Jewish converts and the Gentile converts are enemies no more but brothers and sisters, one in Christ. The Law of Moses “with its commandments and legal claims” was serving to separate the Jewish converts who kept it from the Gentiles who didn’t know of it and didn’t. Against the attempts by some Jewish Christians to impose the Mosaic Law on Gentile converts, Paul affirms that the Law could no longer separate God’s single people into factions.
Gospel Exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel passage presents the sympathetic and merciful heart of Jesus who lovingly invites the apostles to a desolate place for some rest. Jesus had sent his apostles on their first healing, teaching and preaching mission to prepare the people they visited for the Coming of the Promised One, Jesus. When they returned, they were no doubt exhilarated by the experience. They had witnessed at first hand the power of God’s Word through their words and the works of their hands done in Jesus’ Name. Nonetheless, they were hungry, exhausted, and in need of rest, both physical and spiritual. In fact, Jesus was eager to hear about their missionary adventures as they proudly shared their experiences. But Jesus, too, was in need of a break from the crowds who were constantly pressing in, demanding attention and healing. Hence, he led the Apostles by boat to a “deserted place” on the other side of the Lake intending to give them all a period of rest and sharing. Today’s Gospel teaches that “the mission of the Church should be based on the Gospel of compassion we seek to live and share, from the authority of our commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation; and that leadership, inspired by the wisdom of God, means not dictating and ruling over others but inspiring, providing for and selflessly caring for those whom we are called to lead.” (Connections).
2) “Sheep without shepherd:” But when they came ashore there was a large crowd waiting for them. Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for those people who were “sheep without a shepherd.” Here the reference to the shepherd was probably to religious leaders, because at this time the Jews were an occupied people, and the real political power was in the hands of the pagan Romans. This brief description, “sheep without a shepherd,” is also dense with Biblical allusions. Like the people of Israel, the crowds were in the desert where they would receive not only miraculous food (next Sunday’s Gospel), but guidance and instruction, just as the Torah had been given in the desert of Sinai. “Sheep without s shepherd” will perish because a) they cannot find their way and will probably end up being eaten by a wolf or other carnivores b) they cannot find pasture, water, and food for themselves, and c) they have no defense against the dangers which threaten them. Jesus’ first act with these shepherd-less sheep was to teach them [v. 34] , then to feed them [vv. 35-40], and finally to protect the apostles (who were also His sheep), from the storm [vv. 45-52]. This text affirms Jesus’ extraordinary availability and his compassion for the needy. It teaches us that a Christian should be ready to sacrifice his time and even his rest in the service of the Gospel.
Life messages: 1) Christians must be people of prayer and action: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back to God again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. One of our main problems is that we do not truly allow God the opportunity to speak to us. We also do not know how to “be still and listen.” Hence, we are often in danger of refusing to allow God to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. In addition, we do not set aside enough time for God to speak to us and for us to speak to Him. How can we shoulder life’s burdens if we have no contact with the Lord of Life? How can we do God’s work unless we rely on God’s strength? And how can we receive that strength unless we pray to Him individually, in the family, and as a parish community in the Church, and receive His grace by participating in the Holy Mass and through the reception of the Sacraments? However, we must never seek God’s fellowship in order to avoid the fellowship of men but always in order to prepare for it. From our reflection on today’s Gospel, let us remind ourselves that the Christian life consists of meeting with God in the secret place so that we may serve people more effectively in the market place.
2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: People today find it difficult to balance those two aspects of the Christian life. Some apparently believe that the social ministry of the Church is all that is needed to make Christ present in the world. Others seem to believe that the Church’s major concern should be preaching the Gospel, rather than feeding the hungry and healing the sick. The Church’s duty, so the argument goes, is to spread the Gospel and provide for public worship. Both views are one-sided. There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. But that is only half of the story. Christians must also display the same compassion for the suffering that Jesus exhibited by meeting the social and material needs of others – even those who are not members of our Church.
3) The Church needs ideal pastors: The pastor must be a man of compassion. He must be able to feel deeply the suffering of others, to understand why they fear and tremble. Pastors are also called to lead and “govern wisely” (Jer 23:5), living the teaching they communicate. They are to guide people in right paths and are to be concerned about what is right and just. Their pastoral care should be involved with the people’s needs, spiritual and material, and should provide peaceful care and guidance. There are very many people searching for truth today, people hungering for instruction, good people who are looking for direction. They may be parents who are sick with grief over the future of a troubled child; a man stripped of his dignity by unemployment; a woman facing a pregnancy alone; elderly people who feel the surge of life diminishing in their bodies; people who are angry and confused because they have lost confidence in their leaders, whether political or religious. They are people who are looking for answers and for meaning. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They all need ideal pastors filled with the spirit of Christ the “Good Shepherd.”
Joke of the week: # 1: The young pastor was teaching the 23rd psalm to the Sunday school children. He told them that they were sheep who needed guidance. Then the priest asked, “If you are the sheep then who is the shepherd?” (Obviously meaning himself). A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young boy said, “Jesus. Jesus is the Shepherd.” The young priest, obviously caught by surprise, said to the boy, “Well then, who am I?” The boy frowned thoughtfully and then said, “I guess you must be a sheep dog.”
USEFUL WEBSITES OF THE WEEK
1) Videos with Values http://www.videoswithvalues.org
2) Catholic Net http://www.catholic.net
3) Everything Catholic: http://www.everythingcatholic.com/1024/
6)Dr. Bryant Pitro’s commentary on Cycle B Sunday Scripture: https://catholicproductions.com/blogs/mass-readings-explained-year-b
7)Video Sunday-Scripture study by Fr. Geoffrey Plant:
8) Fr. Don’ collection of video homilies & blogs: Type https://sundayprep.org in the topmost URL column in the YouTube website and press the Enter button.
18 – Additional anecdotes:
1) Civilized people have lost the ability to sleep as deeply and peacefully as they should: In the 1970s, Michael Caine and Sidney Poitier co-starred in the movie Zulu, which was shot in Kenya. They were assigned a local man to drive them around town. One night, after attending a late-night party, Michael and Sidney came out to the car and found their driver to be unconscious. No matter how hard they tried, they could not rouse him, nor could they find his pulse. They called a local doctor and reported the apparent death. After a quick examination, the irritated doctor announced that the man was only sleeping. Michael Caine protested that the man had no pulse and was impossible to wake. But the doctor explained that this is the way all people are supposed to sleep. ‘Civilized’ people, he said, who live in big, noisy cities and hold down draining, stressful jobs have lost the ability to sleep as deeply and peacefully as they should. == Maybe that doctor is right. It would be interesting to know how many of us have to take something occasionally to help us sleep. Jesus knew it was important for people to get away from time to time. His apostles had been out preaching and teaching and healing and ministering to the public. And it was Jesus who suggested that they get away from the crowds for a while and rest. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
2) “Tell us what the unstrung bow implies.” In ancient Athens a man noticed the great storyteller Aesop playing childish games with some little boys. He laughed and jeered at Aesop, asking him why he wasted his time in such frivolous activity. Aesop responded by picking up a bow, loosening its string, and placing it on the ground. Then he said to the critical Athenian, “Now, answer the riddle, if you can. Tell us what the unstrung bow implies.” The man looked at it for several moments but had no idea what point Aesop was trying to make. Aesop explained, “If you keep a bow always bent, it will break eventually; but if you let it go slack, it will be more fit for use when you want it.” — Aesop was talking about balance. As followers of Christ we need to realize that Jesus advocated balance in life too. Christianity has always been an activist Faith in which the emphasis has been on taking up the cross, laying down our life, sacrificing ourself for the cause of Christ. And certainly, that is a major part of our Faith. But it is possible to have an imbalanced Christianity. Jesus never meant for us to be so involved in doing good that we neglect our need for leisure, for rest, for family, for friends. As Vance Havner used to say: “If we don’t come apart, we’ll come apart!” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
3) Weeping comedian: Will Rogers was known for his laughter, but he also knew how to weep. One day he was entertaining at the Milton H. Berry Institute in Los Angeles, a hospital that specialized in rehabilitating polio victims and people with spinal cord injuries and other extreme physical handicaps. Very soon, Rogers had everybody laughing, even patients who were paralyzed; but then he suddenly left the platform and went to the restroom. Milton Berry followed him to make sure he was all right. When he opened the door, he saw Will Rogers leaning against the wall sobbing like a child over the tragic situations he was seeing. Berry closed the door, and in a few moments Rogers appeared back on the platform as jovial as ever. — Christians are called to a ministry of compassion, and if we are faithful to it, it will cause us to weep with those who weep. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus felt compassion for the “sheep without shepherd.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
4) Mother image of a shepherding God: Jim Wallis, the founding editor of Sojourners magazine writes: “At times I think the truest image of God today is a black inner-city grandmother in the U.S. or a mother of the disappeared in Argentina or the women who wake up early to make tortillas in refugee camps. They all weep for their children and in their compassionate tears arises the political action that changes the world. The mothers show us that it is the experience of touching the pain of others that is the key to change.” — Today’s Gospel presents such a God in Jesus who laments over the “sheep without shepherd.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
5) Care of pets: A 2-year-old girl in Central Florida was found dead on July 1st Wednesday morning, strangled by a pet Burmese python that escaped from a snake cage in her house. If you have a houseful of pets and ignore them there is disaster! If you don’t take notice of their needs there is a problem. There are so many discussions in every house between parents and their children regarding the care of their pet animals and birds. Many of us would be very concerned if we went to a zoo or an animal preserve and saw that the animals in the care and the charge of the managers of that place were not properly nurtured and taken care of. Jeremiah’s contemporaries knew what happened when a shepherd didn’t do his job. — But perhaps those shepherds didn’t realize they were accountable – didn’t know that Someone was watching. Today’s Gospel describes Jesus’ reaction to the “sheep without shepherd.” Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
6) “O young woman, throw yourself into the water again.” In Albert Camus’ novel, The Fall, an established, impeccable French lawyer has his world totally under control until one night when he hears the cry of a drowning woman and he turns away. Years later, ruined by his failure to act, he winds up reliving the experience in an Amsterdam bar: “Please tell me what happened to you on the Seine River that night, and how you managed never to risk your life,” he says to himself. “O young woman, throw yourself into the water again so that I may have a second chance of saving both of us!“– When we fail to act in behalf of someone in distress, something inside of us knows, and will not let us forget, for we have been less than God intends us to be. Today’s Gospel pictures a compassionate Christ recharging the spiritual batteries of the apostles and showing compassion for the crowd. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
7) All people have a capacity for compassion. Mencius, a Chinese philosopher who lived several hundred years before Christ and was eager to show that there is good in everyone, said, “All people have a capacity for compassion. If people see a child about to fall into a well, they will, without exception, experience a feeling of alarm and distress. This is not because they know the child’s parents, nor out of desire for praise … nor out of dislike for the bad reputation that would ensue if they did not go to the rescue. From this we may conclude that without compassion one would not be a human being.” — Mencius was right to say that compassion is a component of true humanity, but alas, recent wars have shown us that there are also those who would as soon throw a child into a well as to pull one out. Some people are so self-occupied that they don’t even notice those who are suffering. The compassion of which we are capable needs cultivating if it is to find expression. Following Christ is one way to nurture that characteristic. Flannery O’Connor, the insightful Catholic writer, lifted up the Christian dimension when she wrote: “You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people’s sufferings and not your own.” The beginning of compassion involves becoming aware of the suffering of others. But it is not enough simply to see the suffering of others; we need to feel it. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
8) You see, you can’t heal them till you touch them: Jacob Bronoski, in his landmark television documentary, The Ascent of Man, revealed how medicine progressed in its development as a science. In the beginning, the doctor would read the great classics of healing, but would never touch the patient. He would direct a lowly surgeon to make the incision in the patient. Real healing didn’t take place, until one doctor had the courage actually to touch his patient. You see, you can’t heal them till you touch them. Jesus reached out to people and touched them. He had compassion. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
9) Pony Express. Larry Burkett, in a recent magazine article, used the analogy of the Pony Express. As you know, for a few years in the Wild West, mail was dispatched across this country by a relay system known as the Pony Express. Occasionally, an express rider would be attacked by Indians. Because his big mount was stronger than the Indian ponies, the rider could spur his horse to a gallop and outrun his attackers before his horse would tire. This scenario wasn’t repeated too many times before the Indians changed their plan of attack. Realizing they couldn’t outrun the express rider, they wisely stationed some of their number every few miles along the route. Then, just when the rider had outrun the first group of attackers, the second band would appear, causing him to spur his horse on without rest. This tactic was repeated until at last the rider’s horse would collapse from exhaustion. [“Less Spurs, More Prayer,” Moody (Sept./Oct. 1996), p. 68.] — Sometimes we are like those Pony Express horses. We get one crisis resolved and here comes another. If it is not a child in trouble at school, it’s an aging parent needing our attention. If it is not an unhappy client, it is an expensive car repair. One stressful thing after another. There is no rest for the weary, we say. And that is so, UNLESS we plan balance into our lives. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
10) God has not abandoned us: Alexander Solzhenitsyn had been in the Gulag, a Soviet prison camp. He had been forced to do back-breaking labor until he came to the point of exhaustion. With little food and little rest, he was constantly watched by guards and never allowed to communicate with another human being. Never permitted a newspaper or magazine from the outside, he came to believe that he was forgotten by everyone, even God. In his despair, he decided to commit suicide, but he could not reconcile that act with the teachings of the Bible. Then he decided to end his misery by trying an escape, knowing that he would surely be shot. He rationalized that his death would then be at the hands of another and not his own doing. The appointed day came when he would put his fateful plan into action. Sitting under a tree during a brief respite from work, just as he started to jump and run, a prisoner he had never seen before stood in front of him. Looking into his eyes, Solzhenitsyn said he could see more love than he had ever seen before emanating from the eyes of another human being. The prisoner stooped down with a small twig in his hand and began to draw the symbol of the cross in the soil of Soviet Russia. When Solzhenitsyn saw the cross, he knew God had not forsaken him. He knew God was right there beside him in his deepest pit. Little did he realize that at that very moment, Christians all over the world were praying for his release, and within three days he would be sitting in Geneva, Switzerland, a free man. (Joe Brown, in ‘Battle Fatigue; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
11) “The interruptions are my work!” Once, a man went to see a friend who was a professor at a great university. However, as they sat chatting in the professor’s office, they were continually interrupted by students who came knocking at the door, seeking the professor’s advice about something or the other. Each time the professor rose from his chair, went to the door, and dealt with the student’s request. Eventually the visitor asked the professor, “How do you manage to get your work done with so many interruptions?” “At first I used to resent the interruptions to my work. But one day it suddenly dawned on me that the interruptions were my work.” the professor replied. — He has recognized that his “work” included being available to his students first, followed by the rest: scholarship, teaching, grading papers, and committee work for the Department and University. And it was by no coincidence that he was the happiest and most fulfilled professor on the campus. He was a true shepherd caring for the sheep entrusted to his care. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
12) “No one comes!” Mother Teresa tells how one day she visited an old people’s home in Sweden. It was efficiently run. The food was good. The staff was trained, and treated the old people well. It seemed an ideal place in which to end one’s days. There were about forty elderly people in the home. They seemed to have everything they wanted. Yet as she went around she noticed that none of them smiled. She also noticed something else. They kept looking towards the door. She asked one of the nurses why this was so. “They are longing for someone to come to visit them,” the nurse replied. “They are always looking and thinking, ‘Maybe my son, maybe my daughter, maybe somebody will come and visit me today.’ But no one comes. It’s the same every day.” “No one comes!” The phrase haunted Mother Teresa. These elderly people had been put away in this home by their families and then abandoned. That sense of having been abandoned was by far their greatest suffering. — Sometimes a person may have no choice but to put an elderly parent in a home. However, it’s the spirit in which this is done that matters. Having put an elderly parent in a home, one person may abandon that parent, whereas another visits that parent regularly. A Christian who doesn’t care is like a lamp that doesn’t give light. “Caring” is never easy. Yet all of us are capable of caring. All that is required is an open heart. When we care, we are living the Gospel. (Flor McCarthy in New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
13) The Good Shepherd: A soldier lay dying on a Korean battle-field, and asked for a priest. The medic could not find one; but a wounded man lying nearby, heard the request and said, “I am a priest.” The medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. “It will kill you to move,” he said. But the priest replied, “The life of a man’s soul is worth more than a few hours of my life,” and crawled to the dying soldier. He heard his confession, gave him absolution, and the two died hand in hand. (Anthony Castle in Quotes and Anecdotes; quoted by Fr. Botelho). Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
14) Making a place for forgiveness: One morning, the members of an Iowa synagogue awoke to find neo-Nazi graffiti covering the walls of their temple. The entire religious community of the city reacted with anger and outrage. Two weeks later police arrested an 18-year-old male and his 17-year-old girlfriend. The community demanded that the two be prosecuted to the full extent of the Law — but, first, the synagogue’s rabbi wanted to talk with them. The two offenders met at the synagogue with the rabbi, along with two Holocaust survivors, a former member of the Israeli army and three temple elders. Tears, fear and anger flowed as the rabbi and the members of the Jewish community told their stories of the horror of the Holocaust, of going into hiding and fleeing Nazi atrocities, of struggling to survive and make new lives far from their homelands, despite the scars and nightmares. The teens told their stories, as well. As a child, the boy had been abused physically and, as a result, had suffered a significant hearing loss and a speech defect. He ran away from home at the age of 15 and was taken in by members of a white supremacist group. Completely indoctrinated in bigotry and hate, he came to Iowa to start his own neo-Nazi group. His only recruit was the young girl. The vandalizing of the synagogue was their attempt to call attention to their deranged cause. In their three-hour meeting, a dramatic change took place: The synagogue community came to see the two teens as lost, broken and frightened children. The ugly Jewish stereotypes the young offenders were forced to study disintegrated and they realized the courage and wisdom of this synagogue community. The two asked for the temple’s forgiveness. In the Jewish tradition, forgiveness must be earned. So it was agreed that the two would perform 200 hours of service to the temple — 100 hours under the supervision of the temple custodian, and 100 hours studying Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust with the rabbi. The temple also offered to get medical help for the young man and have the Nazi tattoos removed from his arms. They also agreed to help the two teens obtain job-seeking skills, therapy and their GED. They would meet again in six months and if the two had atoned for what they had done in the manner agreed upon, forgiveness would be given and the criminal charges would be dismissed. The teens exceeded all expectations. Their atonement transformed their lives with new possibilities, new understandings, new relationships. [The Des Moines Register, April 22, 2012.] — And it all began because a community was able to put aside its anger and demands for justice to come to a place of forgiveness and healing as expected from the good shepherd described in today’s Gospel. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
15) Close the Door to turn on the Light: One evening years ago a speaker who was visiting the United States wanted to make a telephone call. He entered a phone booth but found it to be different from those in his own country. It was beginning to get dark, so he had difficulty finding the number in the directory. He noticed that there was a light in the ceiling, but he didn’t know how to turn it on. As he tried again to find the number in the fading twilight, a passerby noted his plight and said, “Sir, if you want to turn the light on, you have to shut the door.” To the visitor’s amazement and satisfaction, when he closed the door, the booth was filled with light. He soon located the number and completed the call. — A writer in the devotional magazine, Our Daily Bread, commenting on this story, writes, “In a similar way, when we draw aside in a quiet place to pray, we must block out our busy world and open our hearts to the Father. Our darkened world of disappointments and trials will then be illuminated. We will enter into communion with God, we will sense His presence, and we will be assured of His provision for us. Our Lord often went to be alone with the Heavenly Father. Sometimes it was after a busy day of preaching and healing, as in today’s Scripture reading. At other times, it was before making a major decision.” (Luke 6:12). And so, should we. (Rev. King Duncan, www.Sermons.com) Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
16) He made the two of us one. Joe was a white taxi driver in New York in 1960. If you have ever ridden in a New York taxi, you know that the taxi-drivers of Gotham are pretty aggressive. One day according to a New York Times reporter, Joe ran into the back of a car. The driver of the car he hit was a black man named Bill. The damage wasn’t serious, but Joe at once jumped out of his cab and began to assail Bill with loud, violent language, blaming him for the crash. Patrolman John Walsh came up quickly and arrested Joe for disorderly conduct. Bill came along to the court as a material witness. By the time they reached the courtroom, Joe had cooled down and was ready to plead guilty. “I guess I was wrong,” he said to the magistrate. But I’m a good family man. I have a wife and kids at home.” “Be more careful in the future,” the magistrate warned him. “Ten dollars or three days in jail.” Joe was shocked. “I don’t have the money. I’ll have to go to jail.” Then Bill stepped up and handed Joe a $20 bill. “You don’t have to do that,” the judge told Bill. “We’ll raise the money some way.” “I want to do it,” Bill answered. “If you feel that way,” the judge said, “I’ll suspend sentence. I certainly don’t want it to cost you the money … This is a wonderful story!” Joe was even more amazed at Bill’s action. “Hey, you are a swell fellow! You’re an all-right guy.” He linked his arm with Bill’s and the two left the courtroom together. — St. Paul said of Christ, “It is He who is our peace, who made the two of us one by breaking down the barrier of hostility that kept us apart.” Paul was speaking of Christ as the reconciler of Jew and Gentile converts to the Christian Faith. But it is the same Christ who brings blacks and whites together in the spirit of His love. (Ephesians, 2:14. Today’s second reading.) -Father Robert F. McNamara. Fr. Tony (http://frtonyshomilies.com/).
17) The Genovese Effect or bystander effect or the or diffusion of responsibility. The theory behind this phenomenon is that an individual’s likelihood of helping a person in need is directly tied to the number of people witnessing the person’s need at the same time. The bystander effect occurs when the presence of others discourages an individual from intervening in an emergency situation, against a bully, or during an assault or other crime. The greater the number of bystanders, the less likely it is for any one of them to provide help to a person in distress. People are more likely to take action in a crisis when there are few or no other witnesses present. First proposed in 1964, much research, mostly in the lab, has focused on increasingly varied factors, such as the number of bystanders, ambiguity, group cohesiveness, and diffusion of responsibility that reinforces mutual denial. The theory was prompted by the murder of Kitty Genovese about which it was wrongly reported that 38 bystanders watched passively. Today’s gospel tells us about the fate of the “Sheep without shepherds” referring to collective irresponsibility of religious leaders of his time resulting in something like the Genovese effect.
18) I saw two tears running down his cheeks: St. Padre Pio (canonized in 2002) was long accustomed to deep prayer times. St. Pio had an occasion in 1913–5 years before receiving the stigmata, a vision–when Jesus also appeared… and Jesus was “in distress”. The saint wrote in a letter to another priest: ‘On Friday morning I was still in bed, when Jesus appeared to me. He looked all battered and disfigured. He showed me a great multitude of priests, regular and secular, among whom many [were] ecclesiastical dignitaries; some were celebrating the Holy Mass, some were putting on the sacred [vestments], and others were taking them off. The sight of Jesus in distress was very painful to me. His glance turned toward those priests…and when he looked back at me…I saw two tears running down his cheeks… He moved away from that throng of priests with an expression of great disgust on his face, crying, ‘Butchers!’ [blog comment: One English dictionary meaning of ‘butcher’ is ‘one who bungles or botches’ (Webster)]. And looking at me he said: ‘My son, do not think that my agony only lasted three hours, no; I will be in agony until the end of the world, on account of the souls whom I have most blessed. “PADRE PIO: UNDER INVESTIGATION, Secret Vatican Files” by Fr. Francesco Castelli (https://www.trinitychurchsupply.com/blog/st-pio-of-pietrelcina-part-iijesus-speaks-to-padre-pio-about-priests/). In today’s gospel, seeing a big crowd looking for him in a deserted place, Jesus laments on their situation as “Sheep without shepherd.” L/21
“Scriptural Homilies” Cycle B (No 42) by Fr. Tony: email@example.com
Visit my website by clicking on http://frtonyshomilies.com/ for missed or previous Cycle A homilies, 141 Year of Faith “Adult Faith Formation Lessons” (useful for RCIA classes too) & 197 “Question of the Week.” Contact me only at firstname.lastname@example.org. Visit https://www.catholicsermons.com/homilies/sunday_homilies under CBCI or Fr. Tony for my website version. (Special thanks to Vatican Radio website http://www.vaticannews.va/en/church.html -which completed uploading my Cycle A, B and C homilies in May 2020) Fr. Anthony Kadavil, Chaplain, Sacred Heart Residence of the Little Sisters of the Poor, 1655 McGill Ave, Mobile, AL 36604