I love the first reading today from the prophet Jeremiah. God is tired of the Hebrew leaders who are leading His people away from Him. At the time Jeremiah proclaimed this message, those leaders were unfaithful kings and priests. In Jesus’ time they were many of the scribes and pharisees. In our own time, we have some deacons, priests and even bishops who have become secularized or have fallen to the heresy of modernism. This has been true throughout history.
But God’s message isn’t just a message of woe to those unfaithful leaders. It’s also a promise. God himself will shepherd His people.
So when Jesus comes into the world and proclaims that He is the “good shepherd,” this is one of the references from the Old Testament He is calling to mind. Jesus is God, come to earth to personally shepherd His people!
In the second reading, Saint Paul tells the gentiles (that’s most of us) the good news that Jesus has invited us into His flock. Not only did God come to earth to shepherd the Hebrew people into peace, He calls you and me into His flock as well.
And the Gospel according to Saint Mark offers those words of peace to us from the mouth of the Good Shepherd Himself. Jesus saw the vast crowd and His heart was moved with pity for them. They were like sheep without a shepherd. So the Good Shepherd ministered to them.
Jesus also calls His disciples to participate in His role as shepherd. At the beginning of the Gospel reading for today, the Apostles (the first bishops) had just returned from performing the work of the Good Shepherd. They had been ministering to the people in Jesus’ name. And Jesus also ministers to them – who are both sheep and shepherds. Jesus tells them,
Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.
This is a great reminder for us. Even though each of us is called through our Baptism and our Confirmation to serve the Kingdom, to help Jesus shepherd His people, we are also called to be the sheep. We are called to rest in His care and in His peace.