Friday, July 17, 2009

"I Feel Lost"- Mass Readings For July 19, 2009

Do you ever feel lost? Do you ever feel alone? The readings and commentary this week address these concerns. They dig into what causes us to get lost in the first place. There is commentary following the first reading.

Reading 1

Jer 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."

Separated From God and One Another

In the first reading, God warns the bad shepherds who have "mislead" the people and scattered" them. The Lord says "You have not cared for them,
but I will take care to punish your evil deeds." The implication here seems to be that bad shepherds commit evil deeds and those evil deeds mislead and cause "scattering". The Catechism echoes this belief in paragraph 817 which states "The ruptures that wound the unity of Christ's Body - here we must distinguish heresy, apostasy, and schism1- do not occur without human sin". The Catechism here reminds us that sin causes disunity (division).

The fact is that sin ALWAYS involves disunity and separation. Picture Adam who reached for the apple because he wanted to be "like God", but without God (separation).2 "In sin, man seeks to attain his goal without God."3 This reminds me of a child who in defiance of his parents breaks his hand away and walks into traffic without his parents. Typically when we commit sins like stealing, drunkeness, sexual sin, dishonesty, and cheating, we are not interested in doing these sins with God at our side. In our hearts, we might say something like, "I'm just going to sin a little bit, I can do without God for a brief moment." In doing so, we willingly separate from God.

Our sins not only separate us from God, but cause disruptions in ALL of our relationships. And that is the state of many of our lives. Many of us walk amongst a "vast crowd" which is divided and unguided. Sin separates us from God AND each other.

It is also important that we realize that in encouraging others to sin, we separate them from God as well. When we cause others to sin, our just God says, "You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds."

The Good Flock and the Good Shepherd

But clearly, God makes a distinction between the bad shepherds and the "remnant of his flock". It is up to us which group we will walk with. For those who have chosen to be in the Lord's flock, God says "I myself will gather [them], and I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble." Despite the wretched condition that sinners have put themselves into, God shows his desire to help, to guide, and to provide security for us- his "flock".

The Gospel reading, involves nearly the exact same situation. There are people in need of a shepherd. The difference is that in the Gospel situation, we see the fulfillment of God's promise of appointing shepherds and raising up a righteous, and just King. The gospel reminds us that the apostles are appointed shepherds and that Jesus is the King described in the first reading. We should take particular note of Jesus' reaction to the "vast crowd" who were "like sheep without a shepherd". Despite the pitiful condition of the flock, Jesus looks at them with pity. Pity can be defined as "sympathetic or kindly sorrow evoked by the suffering, distress, or misfortune of another, often leading one to give relief or aid or to show mercy"4. So despite the fact that we are sinners, we need only read this gospel to know what God thinks of us and our sinful situation. He is hurt by our suffering, and in his mercy, he wants to help us. He looks at us with pity.

Ultimately, the readings this week teach us a simple and important lesson. We feel lost because we ARE lost. We are lost because of sin. Division and separation are natural consequences of sin. We need someone to guide us. God knows that we are lost. He cares that we are lost, and he desires to lead us into heaven.

This responsorial psalm is perhaps one of the most common ones at Mass. There is a reason for this. This responsorial psalm is the prayer of a soul who notices Jesus' look of pity and realizes Jesus' goodness. The soul then puts great trust in the Lord and says, "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want."

a related blog "Nice Guys Go To Heaven?"

1-schism means separation from Church because of doctrinal difference
2-Catechism of the Catholic Church Paragraph 398
3-CCC 415

Responsorial Psalm
Ps 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 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.

Reading II
Eph 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.

Mk 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.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Hi Chris,
I came across your blog while researching photos of Christ for some artwork. Thank you for having this site. It fed my soul in the wee hours of the night. Well written also.
God bless and keep you little brother