Gathering the sheep

Today’s readings are focused on how God is gathering His sheep, His children.

In today’s first reading, God promises the kingdom of Judah how He will raise up a true King and true shepherds. Judah have been misled by false shepherds who scattered and driven them away. But, the true King and the shepherds God will appoint will once again gather them:

“I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have banished them and bring them back to their folds; there they shall be fruitful and multiply.
“I will raise up shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear or be terrified; none shall be missing—oracle of the LORD.d
"See, days are coming—oracle of the LORD—when I will raise up a righteous branch for David;
As king he shall reign and govern wisely.” — Jeremiah 23:3-5

In today’s Gospel reading, the twelve disciples just returned from the mission that Jesus gave them, that is to preach repentance and cast away unclean spirits. This fulfills the promise of God that He will raise up shepherds for Judah and Israel:

“The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught.” — Mark 6:30

Jesus also fulfills the promise of God through the prophet Jeremiah by being both the King and the good Shepherd who gathers the people of Israel — a people hungry for truth, guidance, and love:

“When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.” — Mark 6:34

In today’s epistle, St. Paul extends the mission of the disciples not only to the Jews and Israelites, but also to the Gentiles, giving all of us access to the One Good Shepherd:

“But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” — Ephesians 2:13,17-18

Today, we, the Church, are also being called to be shepherds, to look for the lost children, the lost sheep of God, and love and care for them.

But, at the same time, God is encouraging us through the readings today that He is the Good Shepherd and He is searching for us.

Are you feeling lost like a sheep without a shepherd?

Jesus is looking for you. He is the Good Shepherd who is willing to leave the ninety-nine and look for the one missing sheep.

And with Him as our Shepherd, we shall not want anything else as in today’s Psalm:

“The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.” — Psalm 23:1

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History repeats itself

From today’s responsorial Psalm:

“Why, O LORD, do you stand aloof?
Why hide in times of distress?
Proudly the wicked harass the afflicted,
who are caught in the devices the wicked have contrived. 
“For the wicked man glories in his greed,
and the covetous blasphemes, sets the LORD at nought.
The wicked man boasts, ‘He will not avenge it’;
‘There is no God,’ sums up his thoughts. 
“His mouth is full of cursing, guile and deceit;
under his tongue are mischief and iniquity.
He lurks in ambush near the villages;
in hiding he murders the innocent;
his eyes spy upon the unfortunate. 
“You do see, for you behold misery and sorrow,
taking them in your hands.
On you the unfortunate man depends;
of the fatherless you are the helper.” — Psalm 10:1-4,7-8,14

This was written around 3,000 years ago, presumably during the time of David. Yet, it seems that it is written today. 

Isn’t this what many Christians are going through right now? Doesn’t it sound like a Christian’s lamentation today — doubting whether God is real because of trials, difficulties, and His seeming absence in its midst, being ridiculed for our faith, being told that there is no God, living in a world where some people act as if God’s justice will not come?

History seems to repeat itself and humanity still hasn’t learned its lesson. As in today’s Psalm, God is real and He is our help. His ways and His love are higher, but His justice will always prevail.

Take courage, even in your sufferings.

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In prayer, in tears

An excerpt from today’s first reading:

“In those days, when Hezekiah was mortally ill, the prophet Isaiah, son of Amoz, came and said to him: ’Thus says the LORD: Put your house in order, for you are about to die; you shall not recover.’ Then Hezekiah turned his face to the wall and prayed to the LORD:
“‘O LORD, remember how faithfully and wholeheartedly I conducted myself in your presence, doing what was pleasing to you!’ And Hezekiah wept bitterly.
“Then the word of the LORD came to Isaiah: ‘Go, tell Hezekiah: Thus says the LORD, the God of your father David: I have heard your prayer and seen your tears. Now I will add fifteen years to your life.’ — Isaiah 38:1-5

How many times have we found in tears while we are in prayer — maybe because of frustration, desperation, or hopelessness — with no one or nothing else to turn to but God?

But today, God reminds us that He hears us and He sees and keeps our every tear.

“My wanderings you have noted; are my tears not stored in your flask, recorded in your book?” — Psalm 56:9

Are you in tears? God sees you. He is there to comfort you.

Come to Him in prayer. Come to Him in tears.

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Following Jesus simplified

Following Jesus requires sacrifice and even dying to ourselves. But, it is not as complex as we make it to be. We simply have to love genuinely.

During the time of Jesus, the pharisees and the scribes made it difficult and burdensome for people to follow God.

They were too legalistic and valued rituals and traditions over people and individuals. That is why Jesus reproached them when He said:

“Woe also to you scholars of the law! You impose on people burdens hard to carry, but you yourselves do not lift one finger to touch them.” — Luke 11:46

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus revealed how it truly is to follow God:

“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.” — Matthew 11:28-29

Jesus simplified the law and prophet. He simplified religion into loving God and our neighbors. He simplified what it means to follow God.

He lifted up the heavy burdens that we think we should carry in order to follow God.

Sure, following Jesus still requires sacrifice and even dying to ourselves. But, it is not as complex as we make it to be. We simply have to love genuinely.

And by following Him, we also find joy, love, peace, meaning, and even rest that nothing or nobody else can give.

Find your joy in following Jesus.

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Childlike faith

How does a child believe?

A child believes with wonder, believing in every possibility.

A child believes with abandon, with unwavering confidence, with trust.

A child believes with his heart, not just with reason.

A child believes not blindly, but with hope.

A child believes with humility, unstained by the arrogance brought upon by having knowledge (or, at least, what the world thinks is knowledge). 

This is the kind of belief that Jesus calls us to have:

“At that time Jesus said in reply, ‘I give praise to you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for although you have hidden these things from the wise and the learned you have revealed them to the childlike.’” — Matthew 11:25

Do you have childlike faith in God? In your dreams?

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