Keeping Our Eyes Fixed on Jesus’ Shepherdly Care, 4th Saturday (I), February 4, 2017

Fr. Roger J. Landry
Visitation Convent of the Sisters of Life, Manhattan
Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time, Year I
February 4, 2017
Heb 13:15-17.20-21, Ps 23, Mk 6:30-34

 

To listen to an audio recording of today’s homily, please click below: 

 

 

The following points were attempted in the homily: 

  • We have been pondering the letter to the Hebrews for the past four weeks. We got to the climax of it on Tuesday when the Author told us, “Since we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us rid ourselves of every burden and sin that clings to us and persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus, the leader and perfecter of faith.” The point of the Letter, the point of the Christian life, is to keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, to learn from him, to follow him, to see where his eyes and heart turns. It’s to keep our eyes fixed on him who was tempted in every way we are but never sinned. It’s to keep our eyes fixed on him who is our high priest piercing the veil so that he can lead us all of the way home.
  • Today as we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus, we zero in on his heart. The Gospel tells us that Jesus’ “heart was moved with pity for the crowds for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” I know you hear our favorite word from the Jubilee of Mercy, splanghnizomai! Jesus’ viscera explode with compassion on the crowds. And today as we look at him, we see how he addresses our most fundamental needs as Good Shepherd. Receiving and responding to that help is what will make us good sheep. Imitating Jesus in caring for others as he does will be the way that we can in him come Good Shepherds. What are the five ways he seeks to shepherd us?
  • We see, first, that he teaches us, just like he “began to teach them many things.” We pray in the Psalm, “He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake.” Jesus has come to teach us about God, about ourselves and about how to become like God. That work of teaching never ends. Teaching is a great act of mercy.
  • Second, he takes us apart to be with him. “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while,” he says to the apostles after they had returned from a journey. The Good Shepherd knows that we need time of prayer. Jesus wants us to have rest, but a particular type of rest. In the Psalm we pray, “In verdant pastures he gives me repose. Beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.” Jesus does this in prayer and he’s always, every day, seeking to lead us apart from the crowds for a while to refresh us in this way. He says elsewhere, “Take my yoke up you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart, and you will find rest for yourselves.” Prayer is a time to yoke ourselves and all we do to him, because it’s by taking upon his yoke that we will find that rest.
  • Third, yoking us to himself on the inside, he wants to help us to pray and do the Father’s will within us as a result of this communion. In today’s first reading from the conclusion of the Letter to the Hebrews, we read that God the Father “who brought up from the dead the great shepherd of the sheep” seeks to “furnish [us] with all that is good, that you may do his will.” And he does this by “carry[ing] out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ.” This is why the Letter says to us about prayer, “Through Jesus, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.” The praise we offer is through lips confessing his name, not silently, not merely in prayer, but among others. Jesus precisely helps us to do this.
  • Fourth, he seeks to lead us, including through suffering and death, as we’ve been pondering throughout the Letter to the Hebrews. The Psalm says, “Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side With your rod and your staff that give me courage.” Jesus is the Good Shepherd who makes sure we lack for nothing, even when he’s guiding us through dark valleys where we can see very little because of our fear. But these dark valleys are opportunities for us to enlarge our eyes and our ears in faith. As we keep our eyes fixed our him our ears can become more attentive. The Gospel verse says, “My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.” When we’re in dark valleys we’re much more dependent on the Lord’s voice and guidance and that’s why he allows them. He perfects our faith through them.
  • Finally, the Good Shepherd feeds us. His concern for the apostles was because they “had no opportunity even to eat” because of the great numbers coming to them. We see in the Gospel his care for the crowds that led to the multiplication of loaves and fish. In the Psalm we see the Good Shepherd’s aim, “You spread the table before me.” The Lord wants to nourish us in body and soul.
  • But it’s not enough for us just to keep our eyes attached to Jesus as he does this five-fold divine work; we need to collaborate fully and docilely. The Letter to the Hebrews talks about the importance of loving obedience. “Obey your leaders and defer to them, for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account, that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow, for that would be of no advantage to you.” Do we obey Jesus the Good Shepherd and defer to him? Do we allow him to teach us, to take us away to pray, to yoke ourselves to him on the insides, to permit us to suffer in union with him, to feed us with the nourishment we may not like but we need? Do we allow him to lead us through the “leaders” he places over us, from religious superiors, to pastors, to bishops, to the Holy Father?  The more we fill them with joy by our openness and response, the more we’ll be able to receive from God through them.
  • Today we have begun this day by coming away from the crowds to be with Jesus, to fix our eyes on him, so that the Good Shepherd can teach us, feed us, lead us through whatever dark valleys we may be in, and enter into us through Holy Communion. Together with the Blessed Virgin, the Mother of the Good Shepherd, who shows us how to orient our entire existence to God and let our life development as sheep hearing his voice, we pray that Jesus may help us in life to give his Father a continual sacrifice of praise and use our lips, after we receive Holy Communion, to confess his name by proclaiming the Good News to all we meet today.

The readings for today’s Mass were: 

Reading 1 Heb 13:15-17, 20-21

Brothers and sisters:
Through Jesus, let us continually offer God a sacrifice of praise,
that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have;
God is pleased by sacrifices of that kind.
Obey your leaders and defer to them,
for they keep watch over you and will have to give an account,
that they may fulfill their task with joy and not with sorrow,
for that would be of no advantage to you.May the God of peace, who brought up from the dead
the great shepherd of the sheep
by the Blood of the eternal covenant,
furnish you with all that is good, that you may do his will.
May he carry out in you what is pleasing to him through Jesus Christ,
to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.

Responsorial Psalm Ps 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose.
Beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
You spread the table before me
in the sight of my foes;
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Only goodness and kindness follow me
all the days of my life;
And I shall dwell in the house of the LORD
for years to come.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

Alleluia Jn 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord;
I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel Mk 6:30-34

The Apostles gathered together with Jesus
and reported all they had done and taught.
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
People were coming and going in great numbers,
and they had no opportunity even to eat.
So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.
People saw them leaving and many came to know about it.
They hastened there on foot from all the towns
and arrived at the place before them.
When Jesus 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.