There are two types of people in the world, the SELFISH and the SELFLESS. Selfish people cannot hide for a long time because everything would end up being about themselves, how they feel, what they want, how they see things, what they think, and all the other indications of the self. On the other hand, there are the few selfless folks whom people often regard as being stupid because they always consider others first. The selfless are always looking out for what would be of benefit to others and could even go with nothing so that others could have something.
Reflecting on the Gospel Reading of last Sunday (Mark 6:7-13), one could see another (hidden) reason our Lord Jesus Christ instructed the apostles not to carry provisions for their mission. From our opening statements, we could see that he wanted them to go through the route of selflessness by discarding personal effects that could potentially trap them into selfishness. The apostles were asked to drop the burden of material possessions so that they could think less about themselves and focus more on their mission.
The Gospel Reading this Sunday (Mark 6:30-34) narrates the return of the apostles from their “take-nothing-for-the-journey” mission. They did excellent work as their reports demonstrate and sensing that they were tired, our Lord Jesus encourages them to take a vacation to a quiet place. However, they could not as people were coming and going in great number. Even attempting an escape with a boat to a deserted place was not possible as the people hastened to their destination on foot before they could arrive.
What could be the cause of this unstoppable search for Jesus Christ and the apostles? We could find the answer to this question in the character of the mission of the twelve. Their missionary work among the people in the various towns and villages was so effectual that the people wanted more. The people encountered messengers that differ from the ones they had. The people met messengers without interest in material things as they did not travel with anything apart from their walking sticks and sandals. The people met shepherds who were interested in gathering the sheep than in scattering them.
The people could go in search of Jesus Christ and the apostles because they could see the difference between them and their conventional selfish and arrogant shepherds who would instead wound than heal them. The people could go in search of shepherds who would instead unite than divide them. The search for Jesus and the apostles confirms the narrative of the First Reading (Jeremiah 23:1-6), where God says that He will gather the remnant of His flock and appoint dependable shepherds that would replace the deceitful ones.
The people were looking for the real shepherds, and as our Lord Jesus Christ puts it, they were like sheep without a shepherd which is another way of saying that they had incompetent and selfish shepherds. Their shepherds failed them, and consequently, they could go out looking for the real ones that would satisfy their spiritual hunger.
David’s description of God as a shepherd in the responsorial psalm (Psalm 23) gives us a perfect picture of the ideal engagement of a true shepherd with the sheep. The true shepherd provides, protects, and preserves the sheep. God is looking for shepherds that would give those leadership qualities for the well-being of the sheep.
The message today is for both shepherds and the sheep; in other words, for every one of us. God is looking for committed shepherds who would gather the sheep from their dispersion. God is looking for shepherds who would provide for the flock not draining them with material demands in exchange for spiritual support especially the “miracle galore” of our day and age. God is searching for shepherds who would lead the sheep on the right path, not those that mislead them into destructive routes.
Shepherds are invited by the instructions of the First Reading to live up to their vocation. The idea of detachment from material provisions as our Lord Jesus Christ prescribed for the apostles would help shepherds to become selfless and focus on the needs of the sheep. In the Gospel narrative, we read that the apostles had no time to eat; that means the zeal for God consumed them (Psalm 69:9; John 2:17).
On the part of the sheep, there would be the need to keep up the sincere search for the Lord. The word of God assures us that those who search for the Lord, with their hearts, would find Him (Jer. 29:13). The real search for God does not entertain excuses; distance does not pose a barrier. Like the people in the Gospel Reading, the committed sheep go beyond powers to search for the Lord, and the found him just as he promised that when we seek, we shall find (Matt.7:7).
As we celebrate the Word and the Sacrament today, let us resolve to become committed shepherds and sheep of God who is the ideal shepherd. May God’s unfailing graces remain with us as we place all our hope and trust in Him. Have an awesome Sunday and a wonderful week ahead.