Jesus the True Leader and Good Shepherd

Reading 1: Jeremiah 23: 1 – 6
Psalm: Psalm 23: 1 – 6
Reading 2: Ephesians: 2: 13 – 18
Gospel: Mark 6: 30 – 34
The theme of the Readings for today is about leadership. God is leading us through His Son,
Jesus Christ, and Christ is appointing leaders within His Church. This should inspire us to accept
this leadership and fulfill our role in God’s Plan as well. God has given each of us some part to
fill in His Plan of Salvation. Some people have prominent or significant roles to fill and others
have smaller ones, each according to his talents or gifts; and God will hold each of us
accountable for our assigned role, in particular, those who have been given the role of leader.
We call Jesus the Good Shepherd. Are we ready to give whatever we can to help him shepherd
his people?
The first reading from Jeremiah shows us what happens when the shepherds of Israel fall short in
their responsibility, and what happens when not enough people step up to help them. Bad
leadership has consequences for the people being led. Under bad leaders, everyone gives less
than they can. And a lot of people are left behind.
If we know what to look for when reading this time in Israelite history, we can see the
shortcomings of Israel’s shepherds; where right worship is not prioritized and the needs of the
orphan, the widow, the foreigner, and poor are set aside. Those shepherds — and a pretty good
percentage of the people — are good at caring for themselves, and keeping up appearances. But
they leave a lot of people without care. And if we look at all that goes on, I think we experience a
great sadness. Sadness at the leaders’ inadequacy; sadness that not enough Israelites make up for
the leaders’ failure. Sadness at the consequences for the whole Israelite people, who all lose their
country, and go into exile because of their collective failure to serve people like these.
All the years later, during Jesus’ time, the problem of leadership still hasn’t been solved. It makes
sense why Jesus is moved with pity for the people. Israel’s shepherds are still letting Israel down,
and no one’s filling in the gap. That’s why Jesus finds these people in the gospel like sheep
without a shepherd. That’s why they approach Jesus and implore Him to help them. And Jesus
looks at them, pities them, resolves to shepherd them. It’s not too long after this pitying look we
hear about that Jesus works his famous miracle with the bread and the fish, to feed this crowd.

And we see a marvelous thing: that Jesus — apparently an ordinary man — knows how to give
what he can, and has it in his power to give everything they need. He’s the only one like that.
That’s why he’s the only one up to the task to personally gather the people to Himself, to be the
one Jeremiah promises; who can lead and shepherd this people totally worthily. Who can be the
True Good Shepherd.
Jesus it was who came to give a shepherding presence to his people, and he does it today. We
have to understand how Jesus functions as a shepherd in our world; how he’s different from any
other would-be shepherd. And doing this, we have to understand that Jesus is the only shepherd.
The apostles were not shepherds in the same sense; their successors, the bishops, are not
shepherds in the same sense. Like the people Jesus looks at with pity, the human members of the
Church need Jesus as a shepherd. The apostles needed Jesus as their shepherd. The bishops need
Jesus as their shepherd.
We’re all in the same flock. We’re all sheep in need of Christ, the Good Shepherd. But what an
amazing thing that Jesus — the one at whom people in need have looked lovingly and longingly
up and down the ages —came looking like an ordinary man, remember; that he shepherded
looking like an ordinary man. And while He entrusted his shepherding task to the apostles and
their successors, He also asks the most ordinary of people to share in that shepherding task in this
or that or the other way: to be like Him, and give what all we can as members of His Body to
help people who need it. How amazing that he brings all of us into his life; that we’re
transformed into hands of the Good Shepherd.
Today’s responsorial psalm and gospel intrigue me. Between the first and second readings, we
sing: “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want” (Ps. 23:1). At first blush, it sounds
so good!
But when I let the words sink in, they can stop me. As in: Do I have enough faith to believe that?
Is this psalm saying I should stop wanting things? Am I supposed to stop wanting our 14-year-
old dog just diagnosed with lymphoma to not suffer?
Is my faith in question if I want my friend X to beat throat cancer? And his wife to feel safe and
loved as she sits at his side advocating, during long days of chemotherapy and radiation?
Is that what a loving and merciful God wants? Or am I going sideways on this psalm?
In pondering this I looked for cues in the gospel. Clearly, the people there wanted. They wanted
more time with Jesus. In fact, they wanted it so much that they raced ahead of the once again
slow-moving disciples and beat them to the other side of the water.

Think about how that went down. Jesus and the guys dock the boat, exhausted, ready for a quiet
night. But there’s a massive, hungry, anxious crowd waiting for him—wanting more. So, what
does Jesus do? Total compassion, right?  He knows in his bones what they want, and he begins
teaching again.
The story doesn’t say what he taught but reading ahead we know that there’s a miracle coming.
He’s about to show the disciples how to feed 5,000 people with a couple loaves of bread and a
few fish!
“The sheep hear my voice,” he says. “I know them, and they follow me” (John 10:27). I know
them and they follow me. That tells me a lot about Jesus’ style. He’s gentle, an inspired leader.
People weren’t afraid of him or his judgements, even those who weren’t particularly proud of
their actions felt safe with him— loved, not judged.  
In a far-fetched kind of way, it reminds me of me and my dog. I love Chester and he knows it.
When he hears my voice, he comes wiggling. When he’s hungry or needs to go out or wants to
play, I’m on it. I wonder if that’s what the psalmist was trying to say: “Our Shepherd’s on it.”
What if that psalm isn’t saying stop wanting but instead is saying, “Go ahead people, name your
deepest desire and know that God’s on it! Trust that God wants it for you precisely because God
planted it in you. Rather than allow your energy to leak over undue anxieties, focus on God’s
reassuring voice (not the “judgey” one, the gentle one) and stay close to it.
So today, let’s ask Jesus for help in doing our part. Let’s say, “I’m ready to help. I’m little, I’m
small and it doesn’t seem there’s much I can do. But help me to see with your eyes how to give
whatever I can, and through your power, help it to be enough. Help me to play my little role in
shepherding your people.”
God bless. Have a wonderful day.