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Pastor's Letter 20210718 - 18 July 2021 - As A Shepherd Tends His Flock

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July 18th, 2021

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time  


Jesus tends His Flock

A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “As a Shepherd Tends His Flock”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

(Note: For this Sunday, and the next four, the Gospel Readings come from chapter six of †John’s Gospel.  †John has no account of the institution of the Holy Eucharist.  But this chapter more than compensates for that.)

The miracle described in our First Reading (2 Kings 4:42-44,) shows God’s concern for His people during a time of famine.  The bread in question was the bread of the {“first-fruits,” which was meant to be offered to God. But instead of offering it to God, Elisha, the prophet of the old covenant, gave it to the people.  The leftovers stress God’s generosity.

Like Elisha, Jesus, the prophet of the new covenant, feeds hungry people and does so even more astonishingly.  There are clear eucharistic overtones in the way the miracle is related. Jesus “took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to the people” (John 6:1-15.)  Such language is meant to remind us of what He did at the last Supper, and of what happens every time we celebrate the Holy Eucharist.  Even though both readings are “miraculous,” there is an essential human element in each, without which no miracle is possible.

Meanwhile, Paul pleads with the Ephesians to live a life in keeping with the Gospel, placing special emphasis on the need for unity and harmony, in our Second Reading (Ephesians 4:1-6.)

A Costly Caring

Unselfishness is never easy.  However, at certain times, it’s easier than at others.  For example, it’s easier when we have the opportunity to plan our “good deeds,” when they are of our own choosing, and we happen to be in the mood.  Then, they cause us the minimum inconvenience and disruption.  At other times, though, when the deed is not something for which we have opted, voluntarily, or when it might be “sprung on us” at an inopportune time, we are charged to forget ourselves, and set aside our own plans to make the “sacrifice.”  

Acts of kindness are judged not so much by their importance, but by the disruption caused in the life of someone who does them.  It’s a great test of people when, at the “drop of a hat,” they put aside their own plans to help another person.

I am reminded of a professor of inorganic chemistry I was privileged to know at the University of Arizona, in the 1970s.  Although I have forgotten his name now, I remember he was considered the foremost expert on the subject of “tea.”  In his office, the shelves were lined with the obligatory books and memorabilia on chemistry, of course, but also, he had displayed a myriad of containers of teas gathered from around the world.  It was a rather spacious office, and the shelves surrounded the entire perimeter.  The number of tea samples he had gathered was far beyond any cursory attempt to number.  

While I was leisurely chatting with him, one lovely Tucson day, we were continually interrupted by students knocking on his door, seeking his advice and counsel about chemistry assignments, or problems.  Each time, the professor rose from his chair, went to the door, and dealt with the student’s request.  Eventually, I asked him, “Professor, how do you manage to get any work done with so many interruptions?”

He smiled and said, “At first, I used to resent the interruptions to my work.  But one day it suddenly dawned on me that they were the work!”  While he could have easily locked himself away, and passionately explored his favorite study or research, instead, he was generous and unselfish.  I concluded that was one of his many charms, and the reason he was my favorite professor, too.  Everyone I knew agreed, and he was one of the happiest and most fulfilled professors on campus.

It’s a consolation for us to know that Jesus, too, had to cope with interruptions.  Our Gospel Selection, today, tells us He was in such demand that He and His apostles scarcely had time to eat.  However, at some point, He decided that “enough was enough,”  and took the apostles off to a quiet place for a break.  

This time He wasn’t thinking of Himself, but of them.  Having just returned from their first mission, He saw they needed rest.  Caregivers also need to be “cared for.”  

Their plans were “foiled,” somewhat, in that many people followed them.  But Jesus didn’t react negatively, but rather, He was moved with pity for them, too.  He saw they were without a “leader.”  Official teachers of the time had no time for ordinary people.  But they flocked to Jesus.  

Caring, like unselfishness, is never easy.  Some people are willing to care “a little,” provided they are “in the mood,” and it’s not to inconvenient, or upset their own plans.  But to care, like Jesus did, regardless of His plans, shows His true character.  Parents are like that, too.  Consider how many times we have arisen in the night to care for a sick child; or how often we have interrupted our plans to listen to their “serious problems.”   Everyone is capable of caring, and the need for caring people is immense in today’s world.  Neglect seems to be rampant everywhere we look.  So many people are like sheep without a shepherd.  One only has to consider the burgeoning homeless populations around us to see that.  When we care, we are living the Gospel!  

“Good” can come out of interruptions.  They can prevent us from being preoccupied with ourselves.  Selfishness is a kind of “prison.” Love, on the other hand, sets us free.  

Having Compassion

Counselors and therapists are told, that in dealing with their clients, they must—at all times—control their emotions; maintaining a certain distance and detachment.  Without such safeguards, they would not be able to maintain the necessary “perspective,” and would leave themselves open to manipulation and control by their clients/patients.  They would also face the danger of “burn-out.”  At all times, they are charged to be professional and “cool.”  

Yet this coolness, this detachment, can be carried too far….  The quality of a relationship between therapist and client/patient is far more important than procedures and techniques. Cold, detached and unsympathetic attitudes on the part of therapists are not conducive to “healing.”  People must experience warmth, sympathy/empathy and care, if they are to expect healing, change and growth to occur.  

Most successful psychotherapists are those who are able to show warmth and empathy.  Therapy works best when the therapist is affected by the plight of the client/patient, and is not afraid to let them see this.  The famous psychologist, Carl Jung, said “I have learned that only the physician who feels himself deeply affected by his patients could heal.”  And Scott Peck, author of The Road Less Traveled," goes so far as to say that it is essential for a therapist to even love a client/patient, if the therapy is to be successful….

When we meet people who seem to understand what it is to be like us, without wanting to analyze us or judge us, then we find it easier to “open up” to them.  When we discover that our pain is felt by the person in whom you have confided, it makes us want to “get well.”  

The best doctors and nurses—and therapists—are those who can’t bear to see people suffering.  But this doesn’t mean there are no limits….  Professionals tend to keep their distance, at the outset, in order to gather necessary information and be objective as possible.  

Jesus, however, was no detached healer.  His care for people was obvious, and He showed it to be largely a matter of the heart.  He didn’t attempt to barricade Himself behind defenses, but He also knew how to replenish His reserves, from time to time.  We should attempt to follow His lead, exercising proper care and objectivity, of course, when we give of ourselves; but be willing to put ourselves “into the fray,” in our heartfelt caring for others.  

To view a recording of today’s Mass, click here: https://youtu.be/MsbIUTUo_xs


May God Richly Bless You! “

Accept surprises that upset your plans, shatter your dreams, give you a completely different turn to your day—and Who knows?—to your life.  

It’s not chance. Leave God free to weave the pattern of your days.”

~~ Helder Camara, Brazilian social rights activist~~ 

Lord of all my Shepherd is, The.docx  

Edited by Father Michael
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