1.Jeremiah 23:1-6
2.Ephesians 2:13-18
3.Mark 6:30-34

Shepherds for today’s people

It is our everyday life experience that there is authority crisis. Personally, I have witnessed the fact that in many areas of life there is a crisis of authority. The simple fact of holding a leadership position no longer ensures loyalty and unquestioning obedience today. The ideal leader is one who can win respect and generate trust, one who can get things done while respecting people’s dignity and rights, being aware of their feelings and showing concern for their well-being.
From the gospel reading we have heard that Shepherds are responsible for others in their care( Jeremiah); sent to guide people along the right path( Psalm),  and show compassion on them in their weakness (Gospel). Some believers tend to think that this image of shepherd is only applied to bishops- whose official role is to be “pastors” in succession to the apostles, or to our priests, the “local pastors”- however, the role of “ shepherd” at one level or another, applies to all in any kind of leadership. It is an invitation to us all today, to examine our consciences in the light of God’s word, what our leadership is like.
The shepherds condemned by Jeremiah were the leaders of the nation, who neglected their responsibilities and let abuse flourish. Where can we trace the message of prophet Jeremiah today? The answer is very clear that his message today is relevant to political figures, ministers and government officials at various levels without excluding spiritual readers like lay faithful, Religious, deacons, priests, and bishops. The “shepherd” image suggests that the authority is not mainly the power to impose their rules on their subjects (those they govern). The chief mission of the shepherd in a religious and evangelical connotation is to serve and not to be served. The goal of being a shepherd is to set directions and enable a community to live together in peace, where each individual will feel to be at home, and will have a dignity and an equal chance of personal fulfillment.

While the term shepherd rightly applies to spiritual leaders, prelates because of their weaknesses may find themselves using this privilege to push this image too far, seeming to treat their people more like sheep to be driven than as intelligent human beings to be persuaded. In our today’s world, the “Father knows best” attitude is not well received. Our clergy cannot rule by decree, based on formal authority, but must focus on winning  both minds and hearts and trying to communicate an inspiring image and vision of Christian living. It is a call to each one of us to bear Christ like image to those who have neither experienced Jesus in their life. The good shepherd is one who knows his sheep by their names, thus a spiritual leader should trust the maturity and responsibility of his people, and moreover, promote a greater sense making his people to feel that they really belong to the Church of Christ.

Moments of contemplation
In our everyday life sometimes we all need a break from our everyday routines whatever these routines might be. Most of us like to be with others when we are away from our routines. In the gospel today we find Jesus taking his disciples away together for a period of rest and quiet. They had a busy time and were full of all they had done and taught and wanted to share it with Jesus. Jesus suggests a change of place and location, to take them away to a quite place, where they could rest. In the company of Jesus, this was to be the time of reflection, a time when they did nothing except be present to each other and to the Lord. A question for reflection is that do we set a time a part in our spiritual journey to meet and stay with our Lord Jesus? Where do we most spend our time?

In our own life style we all need such desert moments, times when we try to be present to the Lord and to each other. Thanks be to God that in our parish set up, we have various popular devotions groups like St. Joseph group, Saint Anna, the sacred heart of Jesus and Small Christian communities. People by availing themselves in such Christian groups, then is the moments when they present themselves to the Lord and to each other in a more intense way than is usually the case. They are little desert moments that people can share together.  It is the place whereby people can come and rest for a while, in the words of the gospel. The silence can be an opportunity to share with our Lord about what has been going on in our lives, just as in the gospel the disciples shared with Jesus all they had been doing and teaching.

In the first part of the gospel we learn to be closer to Jesus, the second part of the gospels seems to tell us another value. From the first part we are told that the disciples and Jesus were going to a lonely place, but suddenly the place they were going became crowded with people even before Jesus and his disciples reached the place. Jesus and his disciples stepped out of the boat not into quietness and peace but into human need and demand. It is part and parcel of our everyday life experience with that kind of experience. 

We sometimes make plans in life but sometimes they do not work out. We go somewhere expecting something to take place, and the opposite transpires. We want to be alone yet we are surrounded by people. Jesus and his disciples experienced a major interruption to what they were intending. Interruptions are part of our lives, and as one writer put it, ‘God is often to be found in the interruptions.’ Jesus to us all is the model on how to attend and being attentive to interruptions as himself responded to interruption and became completely present to it. He did not try to avoid the crowd or to send them away; he became fully present to them. 

In the words of the gospel, ‘he took pity on them’, ‘he had compassion for them.’ That is what our calling is as the disciples of Jesus, to be present to others, even when they turn up unexpectedly and interrupt what we planned before. It is easy to get worked up and irritated when something we never planned get in between. With that we can be so disappointed and look on people as nuisances instead of being present to them with compassion of Jesus. Jesus had the habit of spending time alone with God; it was those times of presence to God in prayer that enabled him to be present to others, no matter who they were or how they turned up. Our own way of coming to be with the Lord will help us too to be present to those who avail themselves to us for different needs. Let our contemplative moments, our desert times, help us to be contemplative, attentive, in our own way of relating to those who cross our path in life.

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Chapisha Maoni