Like sheep without a shepherd
Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time - B

Frank Enderle
Reproduced with Permission

Jesus began his public ministry by preaching in the regions closest to Galilee. Quite often the people who listened to him followed him. The Lord saw in these people so much need for physical and spiritual care that he felt sorry for them. They wandered around seeking spiritual guidance, abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Jesus came to this world with a primary mission: to save humanity from sin. To help him in this mission he chose twelve Apostles who would continue the work of salvation that he had started. They were the ones who would be sent out to heal the wounded heart of humanity. Last Sunday we heard how Jesus gave them the power to drive out unclean spirits and to cure every disease and every illness. For the apostles this was their initiation into the mission that they would continue until their death: to gather together the flock that uncaring shepherds had forsaken, to protect it, and to guide it to salvation.

Jesus sent the apostles first to the Jewish people. God had chosen them centuries before to be his people. Christ wanted to begin his work of reconciliation by sending his Apostles to the Jewish community in which they had been born and grew up. He wanted to show the Apostles, and us, that the task of evangelization can not begin until we ourselves have been evangelized and well instructed in our faith. That was why Jesus gathered his Apostles together in the first place, so that he could teach them about the divine plan for salvation. God the Father sent his Son, Jesus Christ, to the world to save humanity. Jesus sent the Apostles to build up the Church, to faithfully transmit his teachings, to continue the work of salvation that he had started.

The Lord always felt sorry for the weak. While he still walked on this earth, he cured many, even though he knew that in the world there would always be physical and spiritual sicknesses. He knows us very well and he knows that many of our illnesses are caused by sin. We could overcome many of the sorrows of this life, not only our own but those of our families, if we only followed his teachings, if we only turned away from sin. We all sin. Jesus knew this. That is why he gave his Apostles the power to pardon sins in his name. And they transmitted that power to their successors, the bishops and priests who continue to wait for us to decide to confess our sins so that in Jesus’ name they can heal us and cleanse us of our sins.

Jesus asked the apostles to pray to the Father to send more workers who would help in gathering in the harvest. We usually take this to mean more priests, deacons and religious order brothers and sisters. Yet, if we really think about it, each one of us has a vocation. Each one of us has been called to live out that vocation, placing ourselves at the service of God and of humanity. The Church needs good Christians to transmit the Good News of Christ to a society, and a world, that desperately needs to hear it. My brothers and sisters, as you go about your daily life during the upcoming week, I would ask you to remember that each of us, each member of this community is called to give courageous testimony of Christ in the midst of an unbelieving and hostile world, just as the Apostles did.