16th Sunday Ordinary Time B

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 in 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

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Q537: It isn’t very complimentary being called a “sheep.” Why did Jesus do that?

Immediately following today’s gospel selection (Mark 6:30-34), after Jesus finishes his teaching, comes the miraculous feeding of the “vast crowd” (including 5,000 men, we are later told). The overriding theme in both the First Reading (Jer 23:1-6) and the Gospel is that of the Lord himself being the Shepherd of his people.

Jesus compares the crowd to a huge flock of sheep without a shepherd. Notice how at least four elements are present at the physical level when he uses this image or metaphor. First, the sheep would wander away and get lost without a shepherd. Also, the wild animals in the hills and ravines would find the sheep to be “easy prey.” Third, when daylight came, there would be no one to lead them on the best paths to pastures. Finally, along with that “absent leader” role is the fact that when it came time to feed, the sheep would starve, not knowing where the pastures were located.

But Jesus was also speaking to the spiritual level of the crowd. The civilian or governmental leadership was callous and greedy (e.g., King Herod). The religious leadership was also woefully inept – they were supposed to lead the chosen people to the Messiah, and could not even recognize him. Furthermore, the religious leaders were in many cases self-serving and opportunistic (e.g., taking advantage of widows). Worst of all, they were bound up in rigid rules and regulations that became barriers to having a personal relationship with God.

As prophesied (Jeremiah), Jesus himself provides truthful teachings about the kingdom of God, and feeds the crowd himself – as any good shepherd would do for his sheep. All of the Old Testament scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus Christ, as this one incident so wondrously demonstrates.

KNOW YOUR CATECHISM! Before we can be effective ministers (all of us who are Baptized), we need to spend time being formed by our shepherd (CCC #428-9). He will also provide the real nourishment we need (CCC #1212, 1436).

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Shepherd Us O Lord

Our world, our society, even our church are divided and somewhat scattered; it is regretful and painful. Jesus looks at us with pity as he did the people of his own day — scattered like the sheep of Jeremiah’s prophecy. Paul reminds us that we who once were divided have been brought together through the blood of Christ. Individually too we are divided like the flock. we are 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 entitles us to identify with Jesus on his cross.

Lord we have walked in ways that have divided and separated us in our very selves and from others. Make us one, Lord. May we dwell in your house united with all in the body of Christ, even with those whom we have offended and those who have offended us.

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