Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord. Therefore, thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people; You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherds them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the Lord.
Behold the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they given him: "The Lord our justice."(P) The word of the Lord.
The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures He gives me repose; beside restful waters He leads me; He refreshes my soul. (R)
He guides me in right paths for His name's sake, Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. (R)
You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. (R)
Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come. (R)
Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. 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.(P) The word of the Lord.
The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while."
People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.
When he 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.(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
A little girl asked, "Dad! Are you still growing? "No baby. Why do you ask?", he replied. "Because Dad, the top of your head is coming through your hair", she said.
Do you remember as a child comparing your height and physical growth with that of your parents or elders in your family and, wanted to be tall and strong like them? Do you sometimes look in the mirror to see how your body looks compared to others? Do you check your body regularly to ensure that you are well and healthy? Do you periodically take stock of your financial situation? If you are so concerned about your physical, economic or financial status, are you also concerned about your spiritual wellbeing? How often do you measure your spiritual growth? Is your faith deeper or shallower than last year or when you first believed in Jesus or when you were baptized? Are you growing in your faith or losing your faith? These are the questions Saint Paul addresses in today's second reading of his Letter to the Ephesians.
The Apostle Paul, originally known as Saul, was a devout Jew and persecutor of Christians before his conversion. Paul proudly recounts his Jewish heritage and past life in his Letter to the Philippians, (3:5-6): "Circumcised on the eighth day of my life, I was born of the race of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew born of Hebrew parents. In the matter of the Law, I was a Pharisee; as for religious fervor, I was a persecutor of the Church; as for the uprightness embodied in the Law, I was faultless." Yes. Paul was a hardcore Jew. But after his conversion he devoted his life wholly to preaching the Gospel of Jesus. His zeal and passion did not change at his conversion. He had great passion for Judaism, and he revealed the same passion for the gospel. He was excited and eager to preach the gospel to all, especially to Gentiles. Who are Gentiles?
Gentiles are non-Jews. The Jews and the Gentiles were not just different groups of people who lived in the same land but they were enemies who were openly hostile to one another for hundreds of years. The Jews saw themselves as divinely chosen people but considered the Gentiles as people without hope and without God. They regarded the Gentiles as, "aliens", "outcasts", "idolaters", "sinners", "uncircumcised", and "unclean", whereas the Gentiles considered the Jews as "superstitious", and "scrupulous". Sadly the enmity and hatred between the Jews and the Gentiles continued even after many of them turned Christian. Besides circumcision, which was a physical division, there were many other factors that divided the Jewish and the Gentile Christians. For instance:
But Paul reminded them that he was preaching the exact same gospel to both the Jews and the Gentiles and, therefore all Christians equally belong to Christ, and all receive gospel blessings through faith in Jesus Christ regardless of their race, color, gender or social status. Paul wanted to make it clear that the Jews and the Gentiles have been brought together as part of one body in Christ. In particular, in today's text he speaks of their condition before and after they became Christians so that as believers they can together discard any irrational and unjust attitude of hostility against one another.
Paul contrasted the past with the present status of the Ephesian Christians and reminded them that, in Christ, everything is changed. In the past they were far away from God. They were separated, alienated, and strangers to one another. But now Jesus' sacrificial death on the Cross has broken the barriers between the Jews and the Gentiles and, brought them close to God. Therefore, in Christ, there is no longer a distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles, for all who believe are God's people.
Paul reminded them that Christ, through his atoning death on the cross, has fulfilled the law, by abolishing the difference between the Jews and the Gentiles, and by bringing peace to all people. "Peace" is often understood simply as the absence of tension or conflict or war which some describe as a "negative" or "false" peace. According to Paul, "peace" is renewing or restoring the right relationship with God. He believes that there cannot be real and true peace if one's relationship with God is broken. It cannot be realized without or being away from God, but rather in a restored relationship with God.
He says that we were once enemies of God, Romans (5:10); or separated from God because of the sin of Adam and Eve. But Jesus Christ, through his death on the cross, has put our enmity with God to death and restored our peace with God. That's to say, we are no longer separated from God but unified with God in Christ. Therefore, Jesus is our peace. Jesus is the way to peace. Jesus is the bringer of peace. Thus, the Ephesian Christians were reminded that through their union with Christ they were at peace with God and with each other.
Paul wanted the Ephesian Christians to remember that they were now fellow-citizens and members of God's family who have access to God the Father through the same Spirit.
What is the message for us?
The story of the miraculous healing of a woman with a chronic bleeding problem or hemorrhage in the Gospel of Mark, (5:25-34), is a beautiful example of how we can come in prayer to God with expectant faith. A woman who has been suffering from bleeding comes to Jesus for healing. But because of the crowd she cannot go near him. She comes behind him and touches his garment believing that she would be healed. When Jesus becomes aware that healing power has gone out from him, turns around and asks the crowd, "Who touched my garment?" Then the woman comes forward, frightened and trembling because she knows what has happened to her, and she falls at his feet and tells him the whole truth. Jesus said, "My daughter, your faith has restored you to health; go in peace and be free of your complaint". Yes. If we humbly acknowledge our sinfulness and honestly tell God the whole truth and nothing but the truth about ourselves, blessings will certainly come and will not delay for God promises to "grant us our heart's desires when we truly delight in Him", Psalm (37:4).(P) Amen.
God Bless You!