A Shepherd Who Will Never Leave Us 2021-7-18 Fr. Roberto
Homily for 16th Sunday Ordinary Time – Year B
Fr. Roberto Corral, OP
St. Dominic Church, Los Angeles, CA
July 18, 2021
Title: A Shepherd Who Will Never Leave Us
Theme: God is our compassionate Good Shepherd who will help us through the difficulties of life.
Readings: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mk 6:30-34
I have a good friend named John. John and his wife have worked hard for many years. So, several tears ago, they began to think about, dream about and plan to retire from their jobs so they could enjoy life with their children and grandchildren. Well, unfortunately, one night two years ago, John had a freak accident: he fell down in his backyard, hit his head and broke his neck. Since then, he has been paralyzed from his chest down. I just saw him a couple of weeks ago during my vacation, and he is doing okay for the most part. He can move his arms and his hands somewhat, although it takes great effort, and he has a motorized wheelchair he uses to get around. But, as you can imagine, he and his family have suffered tremendously, and they are still trying to accept this new reality in their lives. So, all of their hopes, dreams and plans to enjoy retirement were not only changed; they were totally destroyed.
When we experience a tragedy like this in our lives, when our hopes, dreams and plans fall apart,
it can be a time of great doubt in ourselves, in others, in life and in God. And that can lead to resentment, depression and even despair. There are no easy answers at those times, but what can be a lifesaver for us is to have a deep and committed belief in what today’s readings resoundingly proclaim to us: that our God is a loving, compassionate and providential shepherd; in other words, that God is a shepherd who is always with us, who will always guide us, care for us, heal us, strengthen us, and somehow will help us get through those times of crisis in our lives.
We see this in our first reading today when God speaks through the prophet Jeremiah to tell his people that, even though their leaders have failed them by not caring for them, misleading and scattering them, he himself will care for his people and will send them a true shepherd who will guide them with wisdom, justice and compassion. How important it is for us in our own day to hold on to that promise of God, as our own religious and political leaders often fail us, mislead us and divide us. Our God is telling us today that he himself will never fail us; he himself will always lead us and care for us. Amen? Amen!
And then, today’s Gospel beautifully shows how Jesus fulfilled God’s ancient promise to send his people a true shepherd. As we just heard in our Gospel, instead of being annoyed or angered by the needy crowd’s unexpected presence and demands, Jesus reacts with compassion and reaches out to them with a tender love and ministers to their needs. My brothers and sisters, Jesus is our true and Good Shepherd whom the Father sent to us 2,000 years ago, and who continues to reach out to us today with that same compassion and tenderness, especially when we are hurting, disoriented or devastated by life’s twists and turns.
Now, keeping in mind the image of God as our loving, compassionate and providential shepherd that our Scriptures present to us today, let’s go back and look at my friend John’s situation and see how that can help us when our own plans fall apart. As I mentioned earlier, John and his wife had made plans for their retirement. So, the first thing I want to say is that it is absolutely fine for us to have hopes and dreams and to make plans for our future, whatever those plans may be. So, go ahead and make those plans; but, always keep in mind that the Lord is our shepherd who loves us and knows and wants what is best for us. So, always bring God into your plans by praying, “Lord, if it is your will, let these plans work out.” Then, at some point, let go of the outcome and trust that, no matter how things turn out, God loves you and will be there with you and for you.
Okay, let’s go back to my friend John’s situation. So, as I said, two years ago, he has this terrible accident, ends up paralyzed, and all of his and his wife’s plans are wiped out. Now, let me repeat here what I have said before: God does not want bad things to happen to us, and he does not cause or send evil into our lives to punish us. John’s accident was no one’s fault. As far as I know, John was not drunk or high or careless when he had his accident; it was simply part of life in this imperfect world of ours; accidents happen.
But, let’s say that it was John’s fault. Let’s say that he was drunk or high or careless or even all three. The amazing thing about God, our Good Shepherd, and the most important thing I want to say to you today, is that God never stops loving us, he never gives up on us, even when we make foolish or sinful mistakes. God never says to us, “You idiot! Because you were drunk or high or careless or sinful, you are now on your own. Good luck; I am out of here.” He will never, never say that. Instead, what he will always say to us at those moments when our plans and our lives fall apart, again, even if it is because of our own foolishness or sinfulness, is this: “Okay, you blew it; you really messed up this time. But I am still here with you. Let’s see what you can learn from this mistake or from this accident, and let’s fix it if we can and move forward together.” That is what our loving, compassionate and providential Good Shepherd will always say to us: “Learn from it, and let’s fix it if we can and move forward together.”
Well, during my recent visit, John told me that he and his family have had their times of doubt, depression and despair during these last two years, which is entirely understandable. But, I am happy to say that, at this point, they seem to be working with the Lord and slowly moving forward together.
So, my brothers and sisters, go ahead and have hopes and dreams for yourselves and for your loved ones; go ahead and make plans for your future. But don’t forget to bring God into your plans with you; trust that he knows and wants what is best for you. And, most importantly, remember that, whatever twists and turns life will take for you, you have a Good Shepherd who will always love you, be there for you and help you get through, no matter what.
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