Through him, then, let us continually offer a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that confess his name. Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing--for that would be harmful to you.
Now may the God of peace, who brought back from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, make you complete in everything good so that you may do his will, working among us that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, so that they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them.
As he 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 many things.
For the past four decades, bishops have been chosen directly by the Holy See, with little or no input from the clergy or laity of the diocese they are to serve. While this process may promote more total uniformity of doctrine and practice, it seriously impinges on the sense of priestly collegiality and personal involvement on the part of the local clergy. We might consider What Bishops Are For, in light of today's readings, which highlight Jesus as the great shepherd of God's flock. While the guiding grace of Jesus our shepherd is clearly more vital than the role of any church leader, a truly pastoral bishop can enhance our experience of being members of God's People, the Church. In fact, the bishop's main task is to build and foster among the people both the reality and the perception of communion and personal involvement.
As Jesus looked around on the crowd, he had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. His loving response was to animate them by his teaching, and then to feed them through the sharing miracle of the loaves and fishes. Responding with love to the people's deepest needs is the vocation of all who are privileged to have a share in his ministry. A deep sense of communion will protect a new bishop from becoming too full of himself and too impressed with his status, title or attire. A bishop is to teach and to lead his people as a loving shepherd; to be a father and brother, rather than a middle-manager or administrator. And he does this most fully when he presides at the Eucharist, celebrating with and for the people of the diocese. A diocese is a local Church and not just an administrative unit. Its bishop is a representative of Christ and not just a branch manager.
In our secularised age, bishops have lost much of the power they used to have, which is not entirely a bad thing, but we still need a positive sense of who and what exactly bishops are, if they are to foster real communion among the faithful. For the healthy coherence of our beloved Church, we should sincerely pray for the spirit and example of the Good Shepherd to inspire and animate the bishops who are now charged with shepherding us according to his Gospel message.
We are all familiar with the experience of our plans not working out. In the course of our day we might plan to get something done and our plans come to nothing. On a grander scale, some plan we might have had for our life does not materialize. We can respond in different ways to our plans not working out. In today's gospel, Jesus' plans for himself and his disciples did not work out. He intended taking his disciples away to a lonely place to be all by themselves, because they were so busy they had no time even to eat. However, when Jesus got to the lonely place, he discovered to his surprise that it had become a crowded place; the crowd had got there ahead of him. He didn't respond with annoyance to this unexpected interruption; instead, according to the gospel, he had compassion on the crowd and set himself to teach them. Jesus' plans did not work out, but something else happened that served God's purpose. When our own plans fail to materialize, sometimes something better can come to pass, which would never have happened if our plans had worked out. The Lord's purpose is always greater than our plans. Whenever we have to let of our plans, the Lord's life-giving purpose for our lives prevails.