In the Gospel today, Mark tells us that Jesus brought his disciples to a deserted place for them to rest. However, many saw them and ran from the towns and arrived ahead of them. When Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them. The Jews had what they call shepherds. These were the high priests, the priests at the Temple and the Levites, who were supposed to look after the spiritual needs of the people. Yet we know they have neglected their duties, which is why people flocked to Jesus when he appeared in the scene. When Jesus saw the people coming to him, Mark tells us, he had pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The people were not looking for material food from Jesus, they were hungry for spiritual food. Jesus knew this so he began to teach them.
Deep within us is this desire for God. The First Reading tells us to obey our leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. God appointed pastors to look after our spiritual needs. But people should not base their faith on the clergy because we are frail people who sin and will disappoint you. The First Reading tells us our Lord Jesus is the Great Shepherd of the sheep, who makes us complete in everything good by the blood of the eternal covenant, so that we may do his will. The clergy or any human leader will not satisfy the needs of the laity because it is only Jesus who completes our longing.
We should not underestimate the power of God to work in the baptized. As long as there is the desire to strive for holiness, God will provide the grace to achieve it. This is why it is vital for every Christian, clergy or lay, to have a loving relationship with God, because without this relationship, we will never be holy, no matter how much we try. The Psalm today is the result of David’s intimate relationship with God. When we have that intimate relationship with God, God becomes our shepherd and we will not lack. This promise holds true for material as well as spiritual needs. St Paul said in Philippians 4:19, My God shall supply all your needs, according to his riches in glory. So when the clergy lacks and disappoints, turn to Jesus and he will fill what we, the clergy, fail to give you.
What else will the Great Shepherd do? At least three things according to the Psalm:
- He makes me lie down in green pastures. The Great Shepherd gives us rest. Jesus tells us in Matthew 11:28, Come to me all who labor and are burdened and I will give you rest. Only Jesus can give us rest.
- He leads me beside still waters. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, If you know the gift of God, and who he is that says to you, Give me to drink; you perhaps would have asked of him, and he would have given you living water. Jesus gives us himself to refresh us.
- He restores my soul. Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world, including our sins. By forgiving our sins, he restores us to our original dignity as sons and daughters of God. The question is: will I accept his forgiveness?
We celebrate St Paul Miki and his companions. They were Japanese Catholics, clergy and laity, who lived in the 1500’s amidst the persecution of the Japanese Emperor. They willingly gave up their lives for the Great Shepherd, finding comfort by singing the Te Deum as they marched almost 1000 km to their death. Paul Miki and his companions show every baptized person has the power to become a saint as long as they come to Jesus and allow him to give them rest, refreshment and restoration.
When Jesus saw the crowd, his deepest part yearned for them. He also yearns today for those who search for him. When we are weary, thirsting for life or have lost all hope, we come to Jesus. Do not be afraid. Jesus yearns for you to come to him so he can give you new life.
sacrifice of Jesus, let us approach the throne of grace with confidence and tell Jesus, our Great Shepherd that we give him permission to teach us many things as we surrender our lives to him because it is only in submitting to Jesus and obeying him that we can be holy. Come to Jesus. He is the Great Shepherd soul yearns to give you rest, to refresh you and to restore you and lead you to the eternal life his Father has planned for you. Come to Jesus, because when we have him, we have all we need.