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Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - The compassionate shepherd

He who works needs to take a break. That’s why, at the return from their mission, the apostles are invited by Jesus to rest for a while. The apostles, after accomplishing their mission, gather around the Master, and report what they have done and taught. After listening, he invites them to retire with him apart into a desert place, away from the crowds.
Jesus retreating with the disciples is repeated often in the Gospel of Mark. It always prepares for a major revelation. Here, again, “Jesus and the twelve are alone” on a boat, in silence, slowly moving away on the lake. 
Mark wants to draw message to the leaders of the Christian community. Service to the community requires much effort and great generosity. However, there is a need to be attentive because it can easily turn into frenzied activity, assessed according to the criteria of enterprise productivity. The danger of losing contact with the giver of the work, with Christ and his word, looms even on the most generous ministers.
It is true that all of life is prayer. In the poor one meets God, in the service of others one works in the name of Christ. However, if one does not reserve spaces and moments of silence where one is alone with the Lord, if one does not get away from activities that absorb all time and energy, one ends up in atrophy.
As Jesus and the apostles reach the shore, a large crowd greet them again. The encounter of Jesus with the crowd stirs a very strong emotional reaction. Jesus expresses a feeling of compassion so deep and so intense that it can be proved only by God. In the emotion of Jesus, the Christian community captures the unique feeling that she too must embody always: mercy.
The image of the compassionate shepherd recalls the various texts 
of the Old Testament. The first reference is to the prayer of Moses asking for a replacement for him “that they may not be like sheep without a shepherd” (Numbers 27:16-17).
The image also alludes to the accusations of the prophets against the leaders who led the nation to ruin: “They have scattered for want of a shepherd…. and no one bothers about them or looks for them” 
(Ezekiel 34:5-6) and the famous Psalm: “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want” (Psalms 23:1).
Returning to the image of the shepherd, Mark shows in Jesus the guide sent by God in answer to the prayer of Moses, and in fulfillment of the promises made by the prophets. 
Jesus is the true shepherd because he reveals a heart sensitive to the needs of the people, a heart that immediately perceives what kind of food they are hungry for and what kind of water they are thirsty for. 
● Father Fernando Armellini SCJ 
     Claretian Publications
Translated by Father John Ladesma SDB
Abridged by Father Jijo Kandamkulathy CMF