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Sunday, July 22, 2018, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Woe to False Prophets

First Reading Commentary Jeremiah 23:1-6

We are all familiar with the gospel, Matthew 23:1-36, where Jesus delivers the seven Woes to the Pharisees for being self-righteous and misleading the people thereby making themselves false prophets. Today, we hear the Father deliver a Woe with promises to false prophets and to us.

Before we consider what, the LORD had to say, we should keep in mind that this is another event in the Old Testament that Jesus relived. We should also keep in mind that this event is a prophecy of the coming of the Son who; is our Good Shepherd as well as the Son appointing His Apostles and the Son being judge over all things.

The LORD only used the word “Woe” once in this prophecy. But that Woe was to the shepherds who were misleading and scattering the LORD’s people and driving them away from Him. These shepherds were not keeping the flock together as a good shepherd should. They were causing conflict and divisiveness among the people and divisiveness between the people and God. 

Anytime a religious leader, no matter what the religion, preaches from the position of rejecting any part of God’s Word or criticizing another religion in a negative vain, he or she becomes one of the shepherds that the LORD was talking to through Jeremiah. Anytime we evangelize in such a way, we too become one of those shepherds that the LORD says, “Woe” to.

No matter how much we may disagree with another person’s religion, we must remember that our mission as an evangelizer is to share God’s Word. Jesus made it very clear in last week’s gospel, Mark 6:7-13, that it is not our place to waste time arguing or debating with people. Our call is to share God’s Word totally and completely and above all, truthfully. Being truthful is what false prophets do not do.

After delivering His Woe, the LORD made seven prophecies which were promises all of which, Jesus fulfilled or will fulfill on the last day. In the first promise, the LORD said that He would punish the evil deeds of those shepherds who did not care for His people.

Is not a pastor supposed to take care of his congregation which is his flock? Too many pastors look to be taken care of by their congregation. Are we not supposed to care for each other? Isn’t that part of the Second Greatest Commandment? If we fail to do so, we better watch out for this promise from the LORD.

In the second promise, the LORD said that He would gather His flock and return it to its meadow where it would increase and multiply. This means that God will bring His people back to Himself and that things; will be as He intended for them to be from the beginning. It means that the number of people who believe and have faith in the LORD as well as being faithful to the LORD will always increase and multiply and there is nothing capable of stopping that. It means that God’s people will be with Him in heaven (the meadow). Jesus reinforced this promise in His Sermon on the Mount when He gave us the Beatitudes.

In the third promise, the LORD said that He would appoint shepherds who would shepherd His people so that they would not fear or tremble and none of them would be missing. You could take this as a prophecy of the coming of Christ who promised not to loose any of His sheep. But I consider this promise to also be a prophecy of Christ appointing His Apostles who would be true shepherds and not bad shepherds or false prophets.

The remaining four promises are prophecies of the coming of Christ and what He would do. The LORD promised to, raise up a righteous shoot to David. This is the fourth promise in today’s prophecy. It is the LORD promising to fulfill the promises that He made to Abraham and David. This is a promise of the coming of the true Messiah, Christ.

The fifth promise was that the Messiah would reign, govern wisely and be just. This is a promise that some people have a problem with in spite of their total belief and absolute faith in God. They do not believe that this promise has been fulfilled with Christ. In part, this is because some people expected to see a worldly king who would rule the world in a worldly way and for some, that belief continues today. But the King of Kings who, is the King of heaven and earth, did not come to rule the earth in a physical way because His Kingdom is not on earth—it is the Kingdom of Heaven.

In the sixth promise, the LORD said that during the days of the Messiah, Judah would be saved and that Israel would dwell in security. This promise presents us with another case of where we need to take our dictionaries and through them out of the window or we will completely miss the message. It is also another reason why some people who were looking for a worldly King could not accept Christ as the Messiah.

Judah and Israel are one and the same. They are the Kingdom of Heaven. It is the people who enter the Kingdom who will be saved and dwell in security. There is no one born into this life who; does not have an equal chance of going to heaven. We are all citizens of Judah and Israel if we enter the New Jerusalem in the Kingdom.

In the final promise, the LORD said that the Messiah would be named: “The LORD our justice.” Notice the caps on LORD in this promise. This is a promise that the Messiah will not only be just but that He is Judge and God Almighty.

So anytime we think of Christ as the Messiah, Lord, judge, Savior or Good Shepherd, remember that God the Father promised all of it in this prophecy from Jerimiah. Anytime we think of the Apostles, remember that the Father promised them too in this prophecy and in so doing; promised the Church.

If you are looking for a real fast snap shot of Who Christ is, what His relationship is with the Father, why He took on human form, what He intended to do and still intends to do and how we are to benefit—it is all right here in this prophecy from Jeremiah.

No More Enmity

Second Reading Commentary Ephesians 2:13-18

Today’s prophecy from Jeremiah is really about man’s enmity with God and God’s plan to bring us back to Him. In his letter to the Ephesians, Paul confirms that God has taken action and has carried out His plan with the blood of Christ who is our peace.

When we do not allow anything to come between us and God, we are at peace. It is when we allow our problems to take control of our lives that we find ourselves in trouble and without peace. We try to fix our problems with worldly solutions which can never totally satisfy us and we become depressed and turn to sin.

The peace of Christ is the only true satisfying solution which is the reason why we should give all of our problems up to the Lord. As Jesus said: “For my burden is easy, and my burden light.” Matthew 11:30

It is the love of God, who is love; that makes the peace of Christ available to us and it is the blood of Christ that brings that peace to us. All we have to do is, take it. When we do, we do our individual part in destroying our enmity with God.

None of us can destroy the enmity between God and man alone because our relationship with God is personal. Therefore, we can only destroy our enmity on a personal level but through the blood of Christ, God has done His part with One Person.

Christ did much more than destroy; enmity. He became one of us and made us a part of Him. Each of us is an individual part of the Mystical Body. This is what Paul means when he says, “…he who made both one…through his flesh…that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two…in one body, through, the cross, putting that enmity to death by it.”

Mankind was created in the image of God. Christ, who came and made all things new, made us a part of Himself through the Mystical Body. Stop and think about that! I do not believe that we spend enough time realizing and accepting the fact that Christ actually makes us a part of Himself by incorporating us into His Mystical Body. If we did, we probably would not spend so much time doing things that we should not do. Instead, we would spend the time that we sin giving praise and honor and glory to the God who loves us so much that He made us a part of Himself.

The Faithful Shepherd

Gospel Commentary Mark 6:30-34

Last week’s gospel was Mark’s account of Jesus sending the Twelve disciples. Today’s gospel is the return of the Twelve according to Mark. He calls the disciples apostles although they do not actually become Apostles until after Pentecost. Refer to Mark 16:15 and Matthew 28:19-20. The word “apostle” in today’s gospel means: those sent forth.

When the disciples returned to Jesus and reported all that they had done, Jesus told them to go to a deserted place with Him to rest. God does not want us to give up on evangelizing and sharing His Word but God does want us to take a break every so often to rest. Even God rested on the seventh day. This is a message for those of us, clergy and lay people alike, who work so diligently for the Church to take time to rest so that we do not wear ourselves out. God cannot wear Himself out but He did set the example—rest.

But the people demanded attention. The people found Jesus and the disciples and came from all over to be with them. Is there anyone who you can think of who is so great that you are willing to seek them out if you know that they are close by and go to wherever they are just for the sake of being in their presence? There are those who are blessed by being famous and popular but they are not great like the Lord and sometimes they need to be alone. This was such a moment for Jesus and the disciples.

But Mark tells us that when Jesus saw the 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.” Mark’s gospel continues with the Feeding of the Five Thousand but today’s liturgy stops with this verse before the feeding. Why?

The message is that Jesus is the Good Shepherd who was promised in today’s prophecy from Jeremiah. Moreover, Jesus is the Good Shepherd because He is a faithful shepherd. A good shepherd is a faithful shepherd who is always there to tend to and take care of his flock. 

God has faith in us and is faithful in taking care of us. How often do we stop to think about that? Who else can we count on to always have faith in us in spite of our mistakes and imperfections? Who else can we count on to always be faithful to us in every way no matter what we may do to hurt them? We show our imperfections and we hurt God with each and every sin. If you can’t say, “Ouch,” your initials must be: J.C.

And how did Jesus take care of His flock that day? The answer is the second message behind today’s gospel ending where it does—By teaching them. Yes, Jesus would feed the five thousand with fish and loaves of bread which is one of two precursors to the Eucharist but first, Jesus fed His flock spiritually by teaching them many things.

Jesus continues to feed us in the very same way today. He feeds us spiritually with the Good News of the Gospel and with the Eucharist. Through the Eucharist, Jesus renews Himself as being a part of us as He allows Himself to enter our bodies which become His Temple and we become a part of Him as He dwells within us. Therefore, the Mystical Body of Christ is strengthened each time that we receive the Eucharist.

But let’s not forget that Jesus had pity on the crowd when He saw them. Two of the definitions for pity are: to feel pain or grief for; to be compassionate. God created us and Jesus is God, the Son. God’s love for us is beyond our understanding. He feels our pain and He grieves for us as we struggle through this desert called life and journey on our exodus to the Kingdom of Heaven. The compassion of God is so strong that He cannot bear to see us struggle on this journey without reaching out to help us in every way possible.

That is the reason why God, the Father, made the promises in the prophecy that we heard from Jeremiah today and why God, the Son, fulfilled those promises with his blood as Paul reminds us in today’s reading from Ephesians. Paul also reminds us that Jesus fulfilled the Father's promise by appointing the Apostles. The Father’s promises will become complete on the last day as is told in the Book of Revelation.

Somebody say it—God is good all the time…and…all the time God is good! Amen.

Reading 1         Jeremiah 23:1-6

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 shepherd 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 give him: “The LORD our justice.”

Reading 2         Ephesians 2:13-18

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.

Gospel        Mark 6:30-34

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.

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The Descent of the Holy Spirit
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Paragraph 767 "When the work which the Father gave the Son to do on earth was accomplished, the Holy Spirit was sent on the day of Pentecost in order that he might continually sanctify the Church."174 Then "the Church was openly displayed to the crowds and the spread of the Gospel among the nations, through preaching, was begun."175 As the "convocation" of all men for salvation, the Church in her very nature is missionary, sent by Christ to all the nations to make disciples of them.176

The Holy Spirit came to Mary and the Apostles as tongues of fire.

Saint of the Day

St. Mary Magdalene
(d. c. 63)
Patron Saint of: 
Penitents & Perfumers

The LORD said, "I will raise up a righteous shoot to David." This was a promise to send the Messiah. The LORD also said, "I will appoint shepherds..." This was a promise to appoint the Apostles.

Responsorial Psalm 23: 1-6

R. (1) The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

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. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

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. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows.
R. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

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. The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.

We can be at peace with God because the Son came in an act of perfect love and broke down the dividing wall of enmity.

Alleluia John 10:27

R. Alleluia, alleluia.

My sheep hear my voice, says the Lord; I know them, and they follow me.
R. Alleluia, alleluia.

Before Jesus fed the 5000 with fish and loaves of bread, He showed His compassion for the people as a good and faithful shepherd. Jesus first fed the people spiritually by teaching them many things.

St. Bridget of Sweden
(c. 1303 – 7/23/1373)
Patron Saint of: Europe

St. Sharbel Makhluf
(5/8/1828 – 12/24/1898)

St. James the Apostle
( d. 44)
Patron Saint of:
Chile, Laborers, Nicaragua,
Rheumatism & Spain

Sts. Joachim and Anne
(b. 1st century)
St. Anne is Patron Saint of:
Mothers & Women in Labor

Bl. Antonio Lucci
(8/2/1682 – 7/25/1752)

Bl. Stanley Rother
(3/27/1935 – 7/28/1981)
First American Born Martyr

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