Through him, 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 Lord is my shepherd,
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me,
to revive my drooping spirit. (R./)
He guides me along the right path;
he is true to his name.
If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort. (R./)
You have prepared a banquet for me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing. (R./)
Surely goodness and kindness shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord's own house shall I dwell
for ever and ever. (R./)
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 almost five 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 serves to promote uniformity of doctrine and practice, it seriously lessens the sense of co-responsibility on the part of the local clergy. We might reflect on what Bishops are for, in light of today’s readings, both of which highlight Jesus as the true shepherd of God’s flock. While the shepherding power of Jesus is greater than the role of any church leader, a truly pastoral bishop can enhance our experience of being part 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. On this point, let us hear a few phrases from a recent article: " What bishops are for" (http://clericalwhispers.blogspot.com/2013/02/opinion-what-bishops-are-for.html) by Martin Brown OSB. A deep sense of communion "is what will protect a new bishop from becoming too full of himself and too impressed with his status, title or attire. He is to teach and to lead his people as a loving shepherd; to be both father and brother. And he does this most excellently when he presides at the Eucharist, in the midst of the people of the diocese."
Brown puts it trenchantly: "a diocese is a local Church and not just an administrative unit. A bishop is a representative of Christ and not just a branch manager. They have lost most of the power they used to have, which is no bad thing, but we need to have a renewed sense of who and what exactly bishops are, if they are to foster communion wisely." For the health and coherence of our beloved Church, we should today pray that the spirit and example of the Good Shepherd will deeply animate the bishops who are now charged with shepherding his flock according to his Gospel message.
Often our plans do not work out. In the morning we might plan to get something done that day, but somehow it does not work out. On a grander scale, some plan we might have had for our career or our family does not materialize. There are different possible responses to our plans not working out,short of giving up in despair.
Jesus' own plans for himself and his disciples did not work out. He intended taking them away to a lonely place for a time of retreat and reflection, because they had been so busy they hardly had time even to eat. However, when they reached that "lonely place", it had become a crowded place; the crowd had got there ahead of them. Jesus' response to this unexpected intrusion was not anger or indignation. Instead, "he had compassion on them" and set himself to teach them. His plans had to be changed. Something else happened that served God's purpose. Whenever our own plans go awry, sometimes something better can replace them, if we are flexible and open. God'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.