“I will raise up shepherds to look after them” - Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > “I will raise up shepherds to look after them” - Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

No priest - or bishop or seminarian - can pass over the passage from the prophet Jeremiah that we heard this morning without examining his conscience: “doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered”.

The Lord expects those to whom he entrusts his people to take care of them – to be dedicated spiritual and pastoral leaders. The Lord wants to ensure that his people are well served by their shepherds. He says that he will raise up the shepherds that he wants to look after his people. Every priest, bishop and seminarian can examine their conscience today as ask: am I the shepherd that the Lord wants?

The Gospel today gives a clear example of what the Lord expects.

Jesus has just been listening to his apostles reporting on their first taste of pastoral ministry. They had been sent out in pairs to preach and heal in his name, as we heard last week in the Gospel. Jesus then says, “You must come away to a lonely place and rest for a while”. While no doubt excited by their experience of ministry, the Lord could see that they needed some rest.

We are told that they got into the boat to go to an isolated place but the people knew where they were going and hurried there on foot.

St Mark describes the scene: “So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length”. The Lord wanted a time of rest. He knew his apostles needed some time of rest. But the needs of the people were uppermost in his heart. He dedicated himself to serve their needs.

Today at this Mass two of our seminarians, Pascal and Fidelis, are to receive the ministry of Acolyte. This ministry is one of two ministries that a seminarian receives on his path to being ordained, the other is the ministry of lector which Pascal and Fidelis have already received.

This is a moment for them to be conscious of a certain aspect of their future ministry of priests. The ministry of Acolyte is about their role as ministers at the altar.

Pascal and Fidelis, with the reception of this ministry you are being reminded that as an ordained priest you will minister the mysteries of the faith from the altar. You will become engaged in making real and present the saving mystery of the death and resurrection of the Lord. You will minister the Body and Blood of the Lord to the people.
Our late and beloved pope, St John Paul II, in his document written for the Year of the Eucharist, Mane Nobiscum Domini, wrote words appropriate for this occasion (n. 18): “There is a particular need to cultivate a lively awareness of Christ's real presence, both in the celebration of Mass and in the worship of the Eucharist outside Mass. Care should be taken to show that awareness through tone of voice, gestures, posture and bearing. In this regard, liturgical law recalls … the importance of moments of silence both in the celebration of Mass and in Eucharistic adoration. The way that the ministers and the faithful treat the Eucharist should be marked by profound respect”. I offer these words of the saintly pope for your reflection today.

Brothers, focus your hearts on the profound mystery that is the Eucharist. Today you are being called to a ministry that draws you closer to this mystery. You are to more closely assist the priest in the celebration of the sacred Liturgy. You will be given opportunities to minister the Body and Blood of the Lord to your brethren, either within the Mass or as Communion to the Sick. You will bring the Bread of Life to those whose faith stirs them to reach out for the Lord who is sacramentally present. Know what you are doing. Know the honour that is yours. Reverence the presence of the Lord. Adore the Lord present in the tabernacle. Never do as dull routine or simple function that which is profound mystery.

Know, too, that the Real Presence of the Lord in the Eucharist is to enable Him to touch, refresh and heal hearts who long for Him. Each Eucharistic moment is a moment when the power and love of Christ can transform the human spirit. The Lord longs to abide in the hearts of those who love him and long for him. He declared that he is the “bread of life”. He feeds the soul. He nourishes the spirit. He brings hope and healing to hearts struggling and in pain.

Finally, my brothers, be resolved always to make your ministry one of love: love of the Lord and love of the brethren. May the step you take today – in entering into the ministry of Acolyte - be moments of grace to prepare your hearts and lives for service of God and the people in the future as priests.

Look at the example of the Lord himself from the Gospel today and model yourself on him. Be men dedicated to serve the people. Offer yours lives afresh this day to become the shepherds the Lord expects of you.

 

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Saturday, 18 July 2015