Sunday, 18 July 2021 : Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, this Sunday we are all called to seek the Lord, our true Guide and Shepherd, that we should turn our focus to Him, and follow Him and dedicate ourselves as His faithful disciples and flock, and remember the love with which He has patiently guided us, showed us the way forward, and nurtured us all with generous love and dedication. As we heard in our Scripture passages today, the Lord has always loved us and showed us His kindness, wanting us all to return to Him and be reconciled with Him.

In our first reading today, as we heard from the Book of the prophet Jeremiah, we heard of the Lord speaking to His people regarding the presence of wicked and unfaithful shepherds who had misled the people of God into the path of sin, as they cared more about themselves and their desires and ambitions rather than about those whom they had been entrusted with, which resulted in the people of God walking down the wrong path and losing their way, and in the end, were picked up easily by the devil and all seeking our downfall and destruction.

Contextually, by the time of the prophet Jeremiah, the people of Israel, God’s chosen people had gone through a long way in falling deeper and deeper in the path of disobedience and sinfulness against God, in their rebellious attitude against their Lord and Master. Far from the days of David and Solomon when the people of Israel were faithful and true to the Lord, for many generations they had fallen into sin, and lost their way, amidst the many temptations of the world. They were tempted and swayed by worldly glory, wealth, possessions and pleasures, that they began to veer off the path that the Lord has shown them.

And most responsible for this was the attitude and actions of the leaders of the people, the kings of Israel and Judah, and the elders of the people. Many of them were unfaithful and wicked in their ways of life and in how they exercised their authority. Their indulgence in worldly excesses and unlawful actions, and their promotion of pagan idol worship and the pagan gods led to many among the people to be swayed and turning away from God as well. That was why the Lord sent many prophets and messengers to His people, as He wanted all of them to be reconciled to Him, and to find their way to Him.

But the people were stubborn and refused to listen to the truth and to reason, abandoning the Lord ever more and persecuting His prophets and messengers. The Lord patiently reached out to them nonetheless, and sent more and more servants on their way to both Israel and Judah, leading the people and hoping that they would come to see reason and the love with which He has loved them. From the very beginning, God has always been committed to us, and He never forgot why He created us. It was out of love that He created us, and His desire to share that love with us, overflowing from His Heart.

This is what He has resolved to do, to continue to love us and to reconcile us, just as St. Paul mentioned in his Epistle to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, that Christ Jesus, the Lord and Saviour of all, had come into this world to reconcile all of God’s beloved ones to Himself, and to break the barriers and walls that separated us from God, that nothing else can hinder us from the fullness of God’s love and grace. This is what He desired to do, and which He had intended for us, and by His coming into this world, Christ has opened for us the path to God and to fullness of grace in Him.

And contrasted with the false, wicked and evil shepherds that were highlighted by the prophet Jeremiah, here was the one true Shepherd of all, the Good Shepherd of all of God’s people, the One Who would gather all of them into one flock, calling on all of the scattered flock of the Lord to be reunited to Him, and through Him to God, Whose love for them endures forever. While in the past, the sins and wickedness of the people of Israel and Judah had led them to be scattered among the nations, as they were defeated and conquered by the Assyrians and the Babylonians respectively, but God had gathered them back and returned them to their homeland, as they repented from their past faults and disobedience.

Thus, in the same manner, God is also seeking to gather us all, His scattered flock, just as He came into this world, revealing the truth of His love and the salvation He promised to all. He has come as our Shepherd and Guide, showing the path for us to be reconciled with Him. In our Gospel passage today, we heard how the Lord saw that the multitudes of people following Him had been following Him and seeking for guidance and help, like that of sheep without a guide or shepherd. That is why, the Lord came to their midst and taught amongst them.

Such was His love for them that even though He and His disciples were tired and exhausted from their ministry, but He still taught them patiently and revealed to them even more about God’s love. He has shown us yet and again, just how much He loves each and every one of us, despite all of our stubbornness and constant refusal to listen to Him. If we are to reject Him and continue to refuse to believe in Him, then it is our own conscious refusal that we shall be judged against. God has made His mercy and love available for us, easily and generously, and we have to appreciate the chances we have received.

Brothers and sisters in Christ, having heard all of these this Sunday, let us all spend some good time to reflect and ponder upon all that God had done for us, all the love which He has shown us, His great and enduring patience in seeking us and hoping that we may be turned away from our waywardness and end our stubborn refusal to listen to Him and obey His will. He as our Good Shepherd has always devoted Himself to us, and patiently sought us out, that every single one of God’s lost and scattered flock may be found and reunited with Him.

Such was His love for us, that to this extent, that He laid down His life for our sake, just as He Himself said how the Good Shepherd lays down His life for His sheep. The Good Shepherd put Himself between us and danger, the destruction that is due upon us because of sin and death, and instead, bearing His Cross, He took upon Himself all these burdens and consequences of our sins and our punishment, and died on the Cross out of pure love for us, that by His wounds and His death, we can be healed and restored to perfection through Him.

Therefore, brothers and sisters in Christ, today let us all, from now on, bear witness to this ever wonderful and generous love of God, and be thankful for all that God has done for us. Let us all never take Him again for granted, but do our best from now on, striving to live faithfully in His presence, and to follow Him with all of our might and abilities, and do whatever we can in order to seek Him, and to make Him known to more and more people. Let us all be shepherds to one another as well, guiding each other in our journey of faith and life, that we will not be easily swayed and tempted to abandon God and His truth.

May the Lord, our Good Shepherd, our most loving God and Father, continue to watch over us and strengthen us at all times, that He may always help us to persevere through the trials and challenges in life, and that He may always guide us down the right path, resisting the temptations and pressures that lead us to the path of sin. Let us all renew our faith and commitment to the Lord, our loving Shepherd, and be ever more faithful from now on, ever onwards. May God bless us all, in each and every one of our good efforts and endeavours, now and always. Amen.