Try To Get Some Rest
The theme of the shepherd runs all throughout the readings today. In the Letter to the Hebrews, Jesus is called “the great shepherd of the sheep,” in Psalm 23 we hear “The Lord is my shepherd” and in the Gospel Jesus looked upon the crowds with pity because they were like “sheep without a shepherd.”
The shepherd has many concerns: the safety of the sheep, keeping the flock together, leading them to food and water and making sure they have sufficient rest. Rest is important and for this reason Jesus often sought a deserted place to rest and pray. This concern for “rest” shows up in his approach to the Sabbath –the day of Rest. Jesus would heal on the Sabbath so a person could enter more fully into God’s rest.
In the Gospel today he invites the disciples who had just returned from a mission to “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest while.” And what happens? They found no rest. The people followed them and Jesus like a Good Shepherd attended to their needs. He had pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd and he taught them about God.
Another word for shepherd is Pastor. One of our previous Good Shepherds, Pope Emeritus Benedict XI preached these words at his inaugural mass:
“The Pastor must be inspired by Christ’s Holy Zeal: for him it is not a matter of indifference that so many people are living in the desert. And there are so many kinds of desert. There is the desert of poverty, the desert of hunger and thirst, the desert of abandonment, of loneliness, of destroyed love.”
“There is the desert of God’s darkness, the emptiness of souls no longer aware of their dignity or the goal of human life. The external deserts in the world are growing, because the internal deserts have become so vast. Therefore the earths treasures no longer serve to build God’s garden for all to live in, but they have been made to serve the powers of exploitation and destruction.”
The Church as a whole and all her pastors, like Christ, must set out to lead people out of the desert, towards the place of life, towards friendship with the Son of God, towards the one who gives us life, and life in abundance.”
We all have to shepherd people in one way or another, to guide them from alienation, loneliness, sin and sorrow and hunger and thirst into the fullness of life. It can be demanding, but try to get some rest.
Fr. Patrick Daugherty, C.P