Christmas Tide (8th January, 2019)
First Reading: 1 Jn 4:7-10
Gospel: Mk 6:34-44
Today’s Gospel reading invites us to ponder on the merciful attitude of Jesus towards his people. Taking pity on them, he says, “They were like sheep without shepherd” it calls us both to praise God for shepherding us as a Good Shepherd (Ps 23) and to realise the inner meaning of his agony over the situation of the shepherds of people neglecting care of people namely to find the sheep as described in Ez 34:4-5).
Surely there were religious leaders and elder whose duty was to care for the purification of Israelites to lead them through the path of God. Yet why Jesus had to say, “They were like sheep without shepherd?” what did he expect these shepherds to do for them? Why did he consider them for having failed to look after the people? The reference in Ez 34:4-5 contains warnings for the shepherds who take care of themselves to the extent of taking what the sheep have to offer them for their own benefit but all the while not taking care of the sheep.
The situation hen existed continued to be so in the time Jesus too. So does Jesus warn the Pharisees and the Sadducees against their failure to care for the people. He says, “They tie up heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on the shoulders of others’ but they themselves are unwilling to lift a finger to move them” (Mt 23:4) In fact the chapter 23 of the Mathean Gospel contains several warnings to the Pharisees and scribes for not tending the sheep entrusted to them. The woes mentioned there in indirectly point towards what he expects the shepherds to be or to do.
The crux or essence of the vocation of a shepherd is contained in the dialogue between Jesus and Peter in Jn 21:15-17. When Jesus asked Peter three times if he loved Him, Peter answered to him all the times in the affirmative. To each response of Peter, Jesus says, “’Feed my lambs’, ‘Tend my sheep’ and ‘Feed my sheep’”. It indicates the love for Jesus is shown in the love for people. The extent we love one another is the extent we love Jesus too. It is not actually otherwise. We are able to love people to the extent we love Jesus so does Mother Teresa says, “We cannot say that we love Jesus only in the Eucharist-naturally, we want to put that love into action, serving the poor. We cannot separate the Eucharist and the poor”. So does Jesus when abbreviating all the commandments in two, mentions love for God first and only then the love for neighbours. The latter does not precede over the former.
Only when we have true love for Jesus, we can love our people (sheep) or one another and not otherwise, let us continue to be instruments of love for Jesus so that we can love one another and tend to them with the affection Jesus shows us. Jesus has set an example for hiving us His love for other. Let us follow Him. Amen.