Date: Sunday, July 18, 2021
There are times in our lives when we need to talk about what has happened, to find words to describe the experience and to share it with someone. We see examples of this with covid-19 healthcare providers in emergency rooms and ICUs, with firefighters battling fires out West, with search and rescue workers at the condo in Surfside, Florida. These conversations occur in support groups for persons and families facing a particular disease or loss of a loved one or enduring a trauma. They can happen naturally among coworkers who chat together and can relate to the challenges and frustrations in their vocation/occupation – like teachers, parents, and pastors.
This common need to reflect upon and to learn from our experiences is evident in our Gospel according to St. Mark. Last Sunday Jesus sent the Twelve on mission, two by two, to neighboring towns and villages, with authority to announce the Kingdom of God, to preach repentance, to drive out demons and to anoint the sick and heal. Today, we hear that they have returned and are reporting to Jesus all they have done and taught. Jesus knows that it is important for these new missionaries to reflect upon what they done to gain greater insight and to learn from one another. Jesus also appreciates the need to break from the crowd. “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest awhile. People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” Jesus is aware of the need for space to reflect, to share, to recoup, to eat and to rest for these essential coworkers and caregivers.
They go off in the boat to find a quiet place but discover, as servant leaders and caregivers do, that it is easier said than done. When they disembark, they see the people have hastened there on foot and are waiting for them. Jesus who earlier has shown great concern for the wellbeing of the Twelve, now exhibits great empathy for the vast crowd “for they are like sheep without a shepherd, and he begins to teach them.”
Our Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 23) is a beautiful song of God as a Good Shepherd who leads us to green pastures and to restful waters to refresh our souls. The Good Shepherd guides us in right paths even when we walk through the dark valley and gives us courage. The Good Shepherd spreads the table before us and anoints us with oil. All servant leaders and caregivers and those of us so often in need of care should take comfort in these poetic words that come true in Jesus Christ. Jesus is God’s Good Shepherd.