Saturday, October 24, 2009

Class Homily 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time B

Here's a homily I did for my homiletics class. Please critique as I am still learning.

The readings are here:

There was once a man who had a flock of sheep. He knew them all and loved each one. But since he could not tend the sheep by himself he hired shepherds to care for them. But they turned out to be lazy and selfish and instead of bringing the sheep back to the owner, they lost most of them in the wilderness. So the owner dismissed the wicked shepherds and sent his son to shepherd his flock. Having a heart like his Father's, the son loved the sheep as much as he did. The son gathered the lost sheep back into the flock, leading them all back to his father, and he tended the flock so well that the flock grew and so he had to enlist the help of other shepherds. But the son was careful to teach the others shepherds how to love and care for the sheep just as he did, by his example, leading the sheep back to their owner, making sure that the sheep stay together in one flock.
I start with this parable because the readings that the liturgy presents to us this Sunday paint us a picture with two contrasting sides. The first, in the reading from Jeremiah, is the bad example of the leaders of Israel who do not carry out the will of God but end up neglecting to care for the people God entrusted to their care. This situation in the history of Israel prompts God to announce his own direct intervention in the coming of the messiah, his Son Jesus who would shepherd God's people.
The today's gospel presents us with the image of Jesus, compassionately tending to the needs of the people who come to seek him out. He shows them that the Lord indeed is their shepherd and that they shall not want.
Yet Jesus does not tend the flock on his own. The apostles in today's gospel had just returned from preaching the good news and curing the sick. Jesus had sent them out to help pastor the flock. Even in today's reading from Jeremiah, the prophecy of the coming of the messiah speaks of shepherds in the plural. Jesus calls us all to help pastor his flock. He calls bishops, priests and deacons to do this in a special way, but the laity are also called to lend a hand.
How shall we know whether we are properly pastoring people? One clue can be seen in what we don't see happening in the gospel today. Remember, it was the apostles who had gone out at the request of Jesus to teach and heal. When the people see them they follow them, and many more who hear about where the apostles and Jesus are going also follow on foot. Jesus, not the apostles, sees the people and has compassion on them by teaching them. A telling sign that might escape our notice is that the people who had followed Jesus on account of the apostles do not demand to see them. We hear no one saying to Jesus, “What you are teaching us is all well and good, but in truth we came here to see Andrew, or Peter, or James.” Instead they listen to Jesus, which shows us that the apostles did not seek to attract people to themselves but to Jesus. Like the apostles, we will know that we are correctly pastoring people and helping the Lord if we, like the apostles, lead them to Jesus so that He might teach them and feed them.
Likewise we will know that we are correctly pastoring people if we seek to bring them all together into the unity of the one body of the Lord - the Church - as we hear in the reading from Paul's letter to the Ephesians. Paul reminds the community at Ephesus that both Jews and Greeks, previously divided from one another, have been brought together into one body in Christ. Likewise we are called to bring together into the unity of Christ's Church of today conservatives and liberals, Latin mass traditionalists and charismatics, social justice activists and dogmatists, sinners and saints, not leaving any behind but encouraging all to come and meet the Lord Jesus and cling to the teaching he has passed down to us through the Church, a tradition that not only brings us to encounter the Lord through reverent celebration of the sacraments, but also seek to take care of those in need, helping them to find their true dignity in Christ.
This is the year that Pope Benedict has asked us to pray for the holiness of our priests, that they may be good examples to us, that they may have a sure knowledge of Christ's love and imitate his example so as to better lead us on to holiness. Let us then not only pray for our priests today, but also ask our Lord to truly encounter His love at this Eucharist so that we too may be good examples both to our priests and to others, as we respond to Christ's call to be co-shepherds after his own heart in the different walks of life to which the Lord has called us.

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