16 Sunday B- Homilies-3


XVI SUNDAY -B
Introduction: Today’s readings explain how God, like a good shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them. They also challenge us to use our God-given authority in the family, in the church and in society, with fidelity and responsibility. Today, pastoral ministry includes not only the pastoral care given by those named or ordained as “pastors,” but the loving service given by all Christians who follow different callings to serve and lead others.


Life messages:
1) We need God’s grace to become good shepherds: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. By setting aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to God, we should allow God the opportunity to communicate with us and to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. He speaks to us powerfully when we spend some time every day in reading the Bible devoutly and meditating on the message God gives us. We receive strength from God to do our share of preaching and healing ministry as shepherds by praying to Him individually, in the family and as a community in the parish church, participating in the Eucharistic celebration.
2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. Christians must also display the compassion of Jesus by meeting the social and material needs of others in our works of charity as individual Christians and as a parish community.
Anecdote:
 # 1: “Altar of the Chair:” Today’s gospel presents Jesus as the good shepherd for people who were like sheep without shepherd. At St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the role of Pope as a teaching shepherd is depicted very powerfully in art. At the very back of the basilica, there is one of the most famous pieces in art history, done by the great sculptor  Bernini.  It’s  called  the  “Altar  of  the  Chair”  and  it  was  so  beautiful  and influential that art historians say it was the start of the baroque era. It was Pope Alexander  VII who  commissioned Bernini  to build  a  sumptuous  monument  which would give prominence to the ancient wooden chair believed to have been used by St. Peter. Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze richly ornamented with bas-reliefs, in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. At the top of the altar, there is the brilliant translucent image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by angels. The Holy Spirit is descending upon a huge bronze chair which houses what in the 16th century was believed to be the actual chair on which St. Peter sat to teach the people of Rome. Peter’s chair is a symbol of the teaching authority of the Church and particularly of the Popes, the successors of St. Peter, who are Christ’s vicars on earth. The most formal teachings of the Church are called “ex cathedra,” meaning literally “from the chair.” Underneath the chair there are four bishops, all famous teaching saints in the early Church—Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Ambrose—who are depicted referring to and spiritually upholding the teaching authority of the Church and the papacy. But the element that is most relevant to today’s Scriptures is found sculpted into the backrest of the Chair. It’s a depiction of Peter feeding Christ’s sheep. It’s a reference to the end of St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied that he did. And Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.” Peter’s obedience in caring for Christ’s sheep is seen above all, therefore, in his TEACHING of Christ’s truth. Every year on February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to commemorate St. Peter's teaching in Rome.
# 2: The hour of a mid-week prayer service in a little church: Michael Faraday, an early pioneer of electromagnetic current, once addressed a convocation of scientists. For an hour, he held the audience spellbound with his lecture on the nature of the magnet. After he had finished, he received a thundering ovation. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, stood to congratulate him. The applause thundered again. Just as quickly, a deadened silence pervaded the audience. Faraday had left. It was the hour of a mid- week prayer service in a little church of which he was a member. Do we have a similar commitment? Like Faraday, have we pledged our allegiances to a Power that outlasts the short-lived fads and governments of this world? One of the reasons we gather for worship each week is for the refreshment of our spirits, the recharging of our spiritual; batteries. We need to shut the world out and focus our attention on God's presence in our lives. Jesus knew the value of getting away to a quiet place. With our families, would we put into practice what the Wall Street Journal suggested a generation ago?
"What America needs ... is a revival of piety - the piety of our fathers. Today’s gospel tells us how Jesus takes his worn-out disciples to a lonely place for rest and refreshing.
# 3: Expectant waiting for dear ones: A story from the life of Mother Teresa shows her love for the lonely and unwanted people, the "sheep without a shepherd," who, while materially well-off, are sometimes "the poorest of the poor." On one occasion, she visited a well-run nursing home, where good food, medical care and other facilities were offered to the elderly. As she moved among the old people, she noticed that none of them smiled unless she touched them and smiled at them first. She also noticed that many of them kept glancing expectantly towards the door while listening to her. When she asked one of the nurses why this was so, she was told: “They are looking for a visit from someone related to them. But, except for an occasional visit, birthday gift or a ‘get well’ card, this never happens." Jesus invites us, in today’s gospel, to show concern, mercy and compassion for such sheep without a shepherd.
Faith Messages:
1) As Christians, we need to be people of prayer and action: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. One of our main problems is that we do not truly allow God the opportunity to speak to us. We also do not know how to "be still and to listen." Hence, we are often in danger of refusing to allow God to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. Besides, we do not set aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to God. How can we shoulder life's burdens if we have no contact with the Lord of Life? How can we do God's work unless we rely on God's strength? And how can we receive that strength unless we pray to him individually, in the family and as a parish community in the church and unless we receive His grace by participating in the Holy Mass and through the reception of the sacraments? However, we must never seek God's fellowship in order to avoid the fellowship of men. Rather, communion with God prepares us for human fellowship and ministry. From our reflection on today’s Gospel, let us remind ourselves that the Christian life consists of meeting with God in the secret place so that we may serve Him better in people met in the marketplace.
2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: People today find it difficult to balance these two aspects of the Christian life. Some apparently believe that the social ministry of the Church is all that is needed to make Christ present in the world. Others seem to believe that the Church's major concern should be preaching the Gospel, rather than feeding the hungry and healing the sick. The Church's duty, so the argument goes, is to spread the gospel and provide for public worship. Both views are one-sided. There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. But that is only half of the story. Christians must also display the same compassion for the suffering that Jesus exhibited by meeting the social and material needs of others - even those who are not members of our Church.

3) The Church needs ideal pastors in this Year of Faith: The pastor must be a person of compassion. He must be able to feel deeply the suffering of others, to understand why they fear and tremble. The pastors are also called to lead and “govern wisely” (Jer.23:5), living the teaching they communicate. They are to guide people in right paths and are to be concerned about what is right and just. Their pastoral care should be involved and peaceful care and guidance. There are very many people searching for truth today, people hungering for instruction, good people who are looking for direction. They may be parents who are sick with grief over the future of a troubled child; a man stripped of his dignity by unemployment; a woman facing a pregnancy alone; elderly people who feel the diminishing of life-energies in their bodies; people who are angry and confused because they have lost confidence in their leaders, whether political or religious. They are people who are looking for answers and for meaning. They are like sheep without a shepherd.  They  all  need  ideal pastors  filled  with  the  spirit  of  Christ  the  “Good Shepherd.”

Joke of the week:

# 1: The young pastor was teaching the 23rd  psalm to the Sunday school children. He told them that they were sheep who needed guidance. Then the priest asked, "If you are the sheep then who is the shepherd-- obviously indicating himself. A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young boy said, "Jesus. Jesus is the shepherd." The young priest, obviously caught by surprise, said to the boy, "Well then, who am I?" The boy frowned thoughtfully and then said, "I guess you must be a sheep dog."