The 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time – 18 July 2021
Lectionary Readings: Jer 23:1-6; Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Eph 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34.
Theme: Jesus, the righteous Branch and Good Shepherd
The phrase that strikes me in the Gospel passage for today is: “they were like sheep without a shepherd” (v. 34b). “Let the Lord, the God of the spirits of all flesh, appoint someone over the congregation who shall go out before them and come in before them, who shall lead them out and bring them in, so that the congregation of the Lord may not be like sheep without a shepherd.” (Num 27:16-17). “‘Mortal, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel’… (Ezek 34:2). ‘You have not strengthened the weak, you have not healed the sick, you have not bound up the injured, you have not brought back the strayed, you have not sought the lost, but with force and harshness, you have ruled them. So they were scattered because there was no shepherd; and scattered, they became food for all the wild animals.’” (Ezek 34:4-5). The above quotations from the First Testament speak about how leadership should be exercised in Israel.
What does the reading from Jeremiah tell us about false shepherds? “‘It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them. So I will attend to you for your evil doings’, says the LORD” (v. 2b). How does the LORD respond to these false shepherds? The LORD will bring back the scattered sheep and place caring shepherds over them so that they shall no longer be lost.
What does Jesus do in our Gospel passage? “(A)nd he began to teach them many things” (v. 34b). Interestingly, what follows is that the disciples (uncaring shepherds) want Jesus to send the crowd away because the place is deserted and they need to feed themselves. Jesus, the good and caring shepherd, tells them: “‘you give them something to eat.’” We know that Jesus feeds the crowds by multiplying the loaves and fish.
Paul in his letter to the Ephesians refers to being lost and scattered when he says: “Now in Christ Jesus, you who were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. He is our peace because he has made his followers one, and has broken down the dividing door of hostility, making peace and reconciling us to God in one body through the cross”(vv.13-14)… Jesus preached peace to the ones who were near and far off so that all of us would have access to the Spirit and the Father” (v. 18).
Surely Jesus is the one about whom Jeremiah speaks when he says: “‘The days are surely coming’, says the Lord, ‘when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: ‘The Lord is our righteousness.’” (Vv. 5-6). This passage is part of a messianic oracle (vv. 1-8): ‘(t)he days are coming’ is a phrase used of the messianic era and ‘Branch’ is a messianic title.
The Responsorial Psalm 23 sums up the qualities of a good shepherd whom the LORD God is for Israel. Jesus Christ, the Anointed Savior, the ‘righteous Branch’ tells us clearly in John 10: 11 “I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep.”
For Reflection and Discussion: 1. In this difficult time of the Pandemic with all that it brings in its train, let us pray Psalm 23 for ourselves and our world with deep trust in the one who is our ‘Good Shepherd’.
Bibliography: Hayford, (General Editor). Spirit-Filled Life Bible. Nashville (1991); King, Nicholas, The New Testament: Popular Edition. (Great Britain: 2004; www.BibleGateway: NRSV
This week’s Sunday Liturgy Commentary was prepared by
Bernadette Teresa Chellew, Durban, South Africa, Bat Kol Alumna: 2008