In the readings for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, God constantly inundates mankind with His goodness and repeatedly intervenes in mankind’s sinful behavior to give one more opportunity to choose His way rather than the way of sin.
In the first reading, Jeremiah expresses God’s warning that people who have led God’s flock astray will be punished. However, God will gather the scattered. The Exile in Babylon was punishment, but God will bring them all back because He wants to develop a people who will receive and live His word.
God will send a leader into their midst who will “reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land.” This leader will come from the tribe of Judah and will be Jesus, our savior. “This is the name they will give him: The Lord, our Justice.”
The responsorial psalm is one of the most beloved passages in Scripture. “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” The imagery is powerful to anyone who has ever attended livestock. When the pastures have been exhausted, the good shepherd leads them to new, fresh, green pastures with streams of clear, running water. When sheep have luscious green pastures and fresh running waters, they are happy.
Mankind hungers for God. St. Augustine said, “Our hearts are restless until they rest in you oh Lord.” Man’s deepest hunger is for God’s love and wisdom. We live in a materialistic world that is, in many ways, a spiritual wasteland.
The more technological gadgets we own, the emptier we become. The more things we accumulate, the more our hearts are restless and barren and clamoring for spiritual food that nurtures the heart.
Why do people today hunger to participate in Scripture studies or renewal movements? Why do so many people hunger to go on retreats where they will have some silence just to be with God? Why do high school students flock to Life Teen and so many college and young adults find much meaning in FOCUS? Might it be that in our society today there is an awakening hunger for God?
Did you ever think that today we would have surfaced candidates for the Supreme Court who have the spiritual values that are emerging today?
God inundates our secular society with values that nurture our hunger for God and for His ways. Just when our society is lost in darkness, God emerges and says, “Behold, I am doing something new! Do you not perceive it?”
In the Gospel, Jesus demonstrates how He wants to share His gifts with His followers. He sent them on a mission and told them to preach the good news and to heal the sick. They came back rejoicing because they experienced powers alive in them, which they previously witnessed only in Jesus.
The crowds were so stimulated that they just wanted more. Jesus recognized the need His disciples had for rest and nourishment; He led them to a lonely place where they could recharge with food and quiet rest.
However, when they arrived on the other side of the lake, Jesus saw that the crowds were anticipating His arrival. “When He disembarked, and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things.”
Notice, Jesus and the disciples were hungry and tired, desiring rest. However, when Jesus saw the crowds searching for God’s direction in their lives, suddenly Jesus’ compassion took over, and He ministered to them. Did we not read earlier:
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures He gives me repose;
Besides restful waters He leads me;
He refreshes my soul.
Healthy sheep need fresh, green pastures, clear running water and rest. As disciples, we too need the green pastures of the sacraments, the Word of God, and the quiet rest in prayer, where we can hear God speaking to our hungry hearts to nurture us with His forgiveness, the Holy Eucharist, and His word that is alive and active.
So each of us must ask ourselves: What is my heart seeking? Will more work, power, prestige, pleasure or possessions satisfy the hungers of my heart? When was the last time I experienced the real joy of reconciliation in the sacrament? When was the last time I experienced an hour of quiet in the adoration chapel? When was the last time I did a retreat? When was the last time I spent a quiet hour reading Scripture?
When was the last time I watched a DVD illustrating Catholic teaching? When was the last time I watched a good religious film? Is God trying to find me, but I am too busy to allow Him time to meet with me?
Might it be that Jesus wants to use me as one of His disciples, if only I allow Him to convert me first? Might it be that the most meaningful part of my life is ahead of me, if only I give Jesus just 20 minutes of quiet time each day? I will have all eternity to thank myself.