16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
Sunday Church at Home
during the Coronavirus Pandemic
Like Sheep Without a Shepherd.
The leader makes the sign of the cross, saying:
Leader: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.
All reply: Amen
Leader: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
All reply: Blessed be God for ever
Leader: Jesus is the one we can always trust as our guide and companion on the way. Each time we celebrate Mass together, it is as though we are renewing our bearings, making sure that we are truly following his lead and inspiration.
LITURGY OF THE WORD
First Reading: Jeremiah 23:1-6
Introduction to the reading: The prophet Jeremiah preached some 500 years before Christ, at a time when unworthy kings ruled the Jewish people. He looked to the day when God would raise up a good shepherd from the House of David. Later, the Gospel writers emphasized that Jesus was born of the House of David, and Christians have seen him as the fulfillment of this prophecy.
A reading from the Book of Jeremiah
“Woe to the shepherds
who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!”
says the Lord.
Therefore thus says the Lord, the God of Israel,
concerning the shepherds who care for my people:
“You have scattered my flock, and have driven them away,
and you have not attended to them.
Behold, I will attend to you for your evil doings, says the Lord.
Then I will gather the remnant of my flock
out of all the countries where I have driven them,
and I will bring them back to their fold,
and they shall be fruitful and multiply.
I will set shepherds over them who will care for them,
and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed,
neither shall any be missing, says the Lord.
“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord,
when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch,
and he shall reign as king and deal wisely,
and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land.
In his days Judah will be saved, and Israel will dwell securely.
And this is the name by which he will be called:
‘The Lord is our righteousness.’
The word of the Lord.
Responsorial Psalm: Psalm 23:1-3a.3b-4.5.6 (R. 1)
Let us now pray the Responsorial Psalm:
R/. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.
Fresh and green are the pastures
where he gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me;
he revives my soul.
He guides me along the right path,
for the sake of his name.
Though I should walk in the valley of the shadow of death,
no evil would I fear, for you are with me.
Your crook and your staff will give me comfort.
You have prepared a table before me
in the sight of my foes.
My head you have anointed with oil;
my cup is overflowing.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life.
In the Lord’s own house shall I dwell for length of days unending.
R/. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.
Second Reading: Ephesians 2:13-18
Introduction to the reading: Our second reading is from the letter to the Ephesians. Ephesus was a community made up of Jewish people who had become Christian, and Gentiles who had become Christian. In this part of the letter, the author is addressing Gentiles – people who were once “far off” from the true God, but have “come near.” As a result, both Jews and Gentiles are together as one “new person” namely,” the Body of Christ which is the Church.
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
Brothers and sisters:
Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off
have been brought near in the blood of Christ.
For he is our peace, who has made us both one,
and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility,
by abolishing in his flesh
the law of commandments and ordinances,
that he might create in himself
one new man in place of the two,
so making peace,
and might reconcile us both to God
in one body through the cross,
thereby bringing the hostility to an end.
And 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.
The word of the Lord.
My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord,
and I know them, and they follow me.
Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
A reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark
At that time:
The apostles returned to Jesus
and told him all that they had done and taught.
And he said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a lonely place, and rest a while.”
For many were coming and going,
and they had no leisure even to eat.
And they went away in the boat to a lonely place by themselves.
Now many saw them going, and knew them,
and they ran there on foot from all the towns
and got there ahead of them.
As he landed, he saw a great throng,
and he had compassion on them,
because they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things.
The Gospel of the Lord
Reflection on the Readings
The leader reads the text prepared by the priest and leads the sharing.
The new young priest was teaching the 23rd psalm to the children in Catechism. 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 meaning 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.” 😊
The image of the shepherd is powerful in today’s scripture: in the prophet Jeremiah, the Responsorial Psalm (the very familiar Psalm 23) and the gospel.
The nature of the king and the shepherd were often linked in the Hebrew texts. Jeremiah condemns the kings of Judah during the reign of King Zedekiah, because they were neglecting their flock, the people of Judah. Jeremiah says that the result of their neglect of God’s people would be the destruction of Jerusalem. The people will be taken into exile in Babylon. But God, the Shepherd, will not abandon the flock. Jeremiah promises that God will shepherd them back and provide for them a righteous ruler. This promise of a just, hand-picked ruler by God, gave the people a hope for a Messiah King.
Then we discover in the gospel how Jesus shepherds his followers and the people of Israel. Thus Jesus is the fulfilment of the people’s expectations.
Last Sunday we heard how Jesus gathers, trains and disperses his apostles to teach and heal. Today we hear how the apostles returned to Jesus and told him all that they had done and taught. Like the apostles who returned to Jesus from their mission, we too are called to continue his work in our world.
We are apostles of Jesus as well.
By our baptism we are members of the living Body of Christ. The Spirit brings Jesus to us in the Eucharist, feeds us apostles and then sends us out to the hungry, displaced and lost to offer a guiding and helping hand. Our work as Christ-appointed shepherds is to make Christ the Shepherd present by our care of others; just as Jesus had compassion on the searching and hungry crowds in the desert and responded to them immediately.
Modern life, with all its conveniences and bounty for many of us, is also a desert for countless others. We have our physical needs taken care of, but we can be in a spiritual desert. We are the Shepherd-representatives in our world. Look around: who are the lost, bewildered, hungry and ignorant? How are we sent to feed and guide them? It is what Jesus has done for us and what we are now charged to do for others.
Right now it is difficult to look around for the lost, bewildered, hungry and ignorant.
Presently, certain parts of our country, especially Kwazulu-Natal and Gauteng have been engulfed by violence and looting that started off as protest against the jailing of former president Jacob Zuma.
It is clear that the violence and looting was instigated and organised by the associates and supporters of Jacob Zuma.
Our democracy is too fragile to allow the difference of opinion on political matters to be hijacked by criminal intentions to create anarchy in our country that will result in worse social and economic situation than we presently find ourselves in.
Bishop Sipuka, the President of the Southern African Catholic Bishops Conference has issued a statement calling for an end to violence and looting. This statement is also available on our parish website.
In the statement, Bishop Sipuka notes the caution by Pope Francis during his visit to Mozambique in 2019 that, sometimes, it takes small steps of violence for a nation to descend into full-fledged anarchy, an endless spiral of violence and massive bloodshed.
The Pope said: “No family, no group of neighbours or ethnic group and even less – no country has a future if the motor that unites them, brings them together and resolves their differences is composed of violence and vengeance.” (Pope Francis, 2 September 2019).
In looking at the causes of this violence, Bishop Sipuka said that: “A big contributing factor … is the lack of efficient leadership in government and unethical practices in business.”
“We call for a return to efficient leadership at all levels of government that will see service being delivered to the people and business enabling all to participate meaningfully in the economic system.”
“Our society has normalized the use of violence and vandalism to get the government to listen and be serious in addressing economic concerns of the poor. We need a shift in mind-set, a collective conversion of heart and mind, which affirms that violent protests and destruction of property can never be a just response to the current economic hardships and economic injustice.”
Bishop Sipuka ends his statement by inviting all to make a choice for life which will manifest in a desire to “cooperate, build and dialogue, pardon, grow, respect sacredness of life, the dignity and freedom of others, and loving commitment to the welfare of all.”
In the gospel today, Jesus urges his exhausted disciples to, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a bit.”
There Jesus feeds them with the Word of God – the Bread of Life. He gives them the life-giving breath of God, the Spirit. That’s what happens when we weary disciples rest in the Lord. We receive the divine energy and nourishment we need to be. fruitful disciples of the Shepherd. And we need this all the more in the midst of the pandemic and chaos of today.
From today’s Gospel reading:
“When Jesus 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.”
Modern life, with all its conveniences and bounty for many of us, is also a desert for countless others. We are the Shepherd’s representatives in our world. Look around: who are the lost, bewildered, hungry and ignorant? How are we sent to feed and guide them? It is what Jesus has done for us and what we are now charged to do for others.
So we ask ourselves:
- As I survey the world surrounding me who are the people that move me with compassion?
- How is the Spirit of God calling me to respond to the chaos and violence in our country?
Prayer of the Faithful
Leader: We turn to God our Father for guidance in our hope of becoming more like his Son.
We pray for Pope Francis and the bishops: (pause) that they may have the hearts of true shepherds and guide the church closer to Jesus and into greater unity.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for South Africa: (pause) that we may walk in justice and end the politically motivated violence and looting in our country. We pray for the conversion of those individuals and groups actively encouraging South Africans to engage in acts of violence and civil disobedience.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for our world: (pause) that we may continue to develop the bonds that strengthen us as we strive for justice and peace for all.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for a successful vaccination program for the covid-19 pandemic: (pause) that God will guide those distributing and administering the vaccines, and open pathways for their distribution in South Africa.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for the protection of the human family: (pause) that God will strengthen those who are working to defeat the Covid virus, speed resources to those in crisis, and bring healing to all who are sick.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for deceased members of our families and friends whose anniversaries occur about this time.
LORD HEAR US
We pray for Chris Busschau, Pat McLaughlin, Anny Smith, and Barbara Williamson who died during the week.
Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord.
And let perpetual light shine on them.
May they rest in peace. Amen
Leader: Let us pray our PRAYER FOR SOUTH AFRICA:
we praise you for all who work for your kingdom to come.
We thank you for seeing South Africa
through many milestones in the past.
We are sorry for failing the vision of justice, peace and mercy.
Send your Holy Spirit to us in our present need,
as politically motivated violence and looting scar our country.
Be with those who govern us.
May they work selflessly and diligently
so that our country may flourish in truth and in justice’
in love and in freedom.
Grant us a listening heart
and the courage to act justly and peacefully,
to love tenderly and walk humbly with You our God.
We ask this through Christ our Lord.
We can unite ourselves to the Eucharist through making a spiritual Communion.
By making an Act of Spiritual Communion, we express our faith in Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist and ask him to unite himself with us.
My Jesus, I believe you are really here in the Blessed Sacrament.
I love you more than anything in the world, and I hunger to receive you.
But since I cannot receive Communion at this moment, feed my soul spiritually. I unite myself to you now as I do when I receive you. Amen.
Leader: Let us pray to the Father in the words Jesus our Saviour gave us:
All say: Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name; thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us; and lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.
Leader: Compassionate God,
from far and near you gather your Church into one.
Safeguard the unity of your flock
through the teaching of Christ the Shepherd,
that all your scattered children may find in him
the guidance and nourishment they seek.
We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,
who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Leader: May the Lord bless us, protect us from all evil and bring us to everlasting life.