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  • Rev. Lawrence E. Polansky

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

“They were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Entrance Antiphon: Ps 54(53):6, 8 — “See, I have God for my help. The Lord sustains my soul. I will sacrifice to You with willing heart, and praise Your name, O Lord, for it is good.”

First Reading: Jer 23:1-6 — “I will gather the remnant of My flock and appoint shepherds for them.”

Responsorial Psalm: Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6 — “The Lord is my Shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”

Second Reading: Eph 2:13-18 — “Christ is our peace who made both one.”

Alleluia: Jn 10:27 — Alleluia, alleluia. “My sheep hear My voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow Me.” Alleluia, alleluia.

Gospel: Mk 6:30-34 — “They were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Communion Antiphon: Ps 111(110):4-5 — “The Lord, the gracious, the merciful, has made a memorial of His wonders; He gives food to those who fear Him.”


The Gospel we just heard was very short. And if you were to ask what that means in terms of my homily, you’d probably be split on predicting what that means as far as how long I stand here talking goes. Some will assume that the short Gospel will translate into a short homily, while others will think or fear that the priest will see the short Gospel as an invitation to make the homily longer. I assume you will align yourself with one or the other side: longer or shorter. And this competition may actually be a good thing because you might actually pay a bit more attention than usual.


The setting for the Gospel is the return of the disciples from their first missionary trip. In last week’s Gospel, you’ll recall we heard Jesus send them out to preach the Good News to all. This week they come back full of wonder and excitement about what they experienced. They can’t wait to tell one another and especially Jesus what wonders they saw and some they have even worked themselves.


“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Jesus made this suggestion / offer to His disciples. He realized that they were tired, that they had much to discuss, and perhaps spending some time apart would be helpful. Jesus extended this invite to His disciples, and He’s also talking to us right here in 2021.


It is easy to recognize the wisdom of taking some time for ourselves. To do so is not depriving someone else of our help or our presence. Rather, it is to make us more attuned to the needs of others. Obviously, sometimes this getting away by ourselves is easier said than done. Shopping, chauffeuring, helping with homework, fixing meals, taking care of “boo-boo’s” and “ouchies,” to say nothing of our job or jobs. From some of the examples you just heard, it must come across that Jesus’ invite isn’t limited to us as individuals. ... A husband and wife going off by themselves could be a great gift to their marriage and to their parenting. ... many retreat houses have been forced to close because of diminishing attendance. I am not trying to give anyone a guilt complex and certainly not implying that “coming apart” is something easy to accomplish. A favorite quote is that “the more time-saving devices we have, the less time we have.” “Family time” is another dimension of Jesus’ “come apart.” Back in the last century when I and many of us here were just kids, Sunday was a family day. We would all go to Mass and then follow up later in the day with a big family meal. I remember many summer weekends were small family reunions at the Homestead in upstate Pennsylvania ... a time for family and extended family to get together.


“When He saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity.” Jesus must have been looking forward to spending some time with His disciples and listening to their experiences and excitement. He expected to spend some time instructing them for their next missionary mission. But His best laid plans came to a halt when He saw the crowd that showed up. He looked at these people and felt that “they were like sheep without a shepherd.” He changed His plans and began to teach them. Next week, we hear about the time He saw another great crowd and worried about them being hungry, and He multiplied five loaves and two fish so they could all eat something. Jesus often changed His plans to meet the needs of others. This is a teaching by example. ... allowing your plans to be altered in order to meet the needs of others is to follow Jesus’ example. ... the ministry of parents has often been described as a “ministry of interruptions.” ... There may not be anything glamorous about driving a 10-year-old to soccer practice, for example, but it is responding to the needs of another.


And so, today’s short Gospel has two lessons which can be summarized by two words balance and flexibility. Or in other words, slow down on the one hand and on the other hand respond to the needs of others.


I mentioned earlier that a lot of good quality family time takes place around the dinner table. Well, let’s enjoy some good quality family time ourselves as we move to gather around the Lord’s table.

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