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Sheep without a Shepherd
Tuesday of the Fourteenth Week in Ordinary Time
A demoniac who could not speak was brought to Jesus, and when the demon was driven out the mute man spoke. The crowds were amazed and said, “Nothing like this has ever been seen in Israel.” But the Pharisees said, “He drives out demons by the prince of demons.” Jesus went around to all the towns and villages, teaching in their synagogues, proclaiming the Gospel of the Kingdom, and curing every disease and illness. At the sight of the crowds, his heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.”
Opening Prayer: Jesus, have mercy on me. Too often, I have wandered, like a sheep, away from your truth. If it is your will to send me out as a laborer, grant me the humility to seek always your ways and your wisdom, that others may, through me, be guided back to you.
- Are We the Bringer or the One Brought?: The demons had taken away the possessed man’s very ability to speak. It is only because he was brought to Jesus, St. Matthew’s Gospel recounts, that he could be healed, and could then speak for himself. Do we (gently) bring to Jesus those who cannot even speak his name? Do we guide those around us toward an encounter with the living God of love? Or, perhaps, we are, or were, like the mute man in the story, the one brought to Jesus for restoration. In either circumstance, we should praise Jesus. “I will bless the Lord at all times; his praise shall be always in my mouth” (Psalm 34:2). With the praise of Jesus on our lips we will be powerful evangelizers, sons and daughters with hearts full of gratitude for all Jesus does for us.
- Jesus Is Powerful, Yet He Wants Our Assistance: Jesus didn’t just heal a little bit, here and there. The Gospel reminds us he went to “all the towns and villages,” preaching the Good News, healing the sick, and driving out demons. But his work was not completed alone. Crowds began to gather and Jesus asked his followers for their help. The “harvest” (of souls) was abundant, but the “laborers” were few, even in Jesus’ time. Later, as the infant Church was growing, the Apostles appointed the first deacons to help them with the ministry (Acts 6:1-15). How do we assist him in our life? Are we open to his call and obedient to his instructions, or do we let worldly cares or technological distractions drown out his voice?
- How Often Do We Wander?: Jesus saw the crowds and was “moved with pity” for these “sheep without a shepherd.” Our urbanized modern world may not provide us with many encounters with sheep, but those who heard this Gospel before around 1940 had experienced what sheep can be—aimless, looking only for the next sweet patch of grass, dispersing widely when they sense a threat. Like sheep, we sometimes spend our energy on things outside of God’s will. Or we let others (who may be more lost than we are) lead us astray. When our faith is threatened, we run. Jesus, then and now, wants us to be led by him and by his Church to the truth and love that he has in store for us. He will always be our Good Shepherd. We need only turn to him and be reconciled.
Conversing with Christ: Lord, there are times when I can’t even articulate what I desire from you: your strength, your mercy, your love. In those times, allow me to be led to you. When I wander, send a shepherd to guide me back to you. Help me to hear the good news and to bathe in the love you desire me to know.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace, I will be reminded that you healed and preached in many places. Help me to remember that there is no place, most especially within my heart, that you are not willing to go, to bring me back to you. Help me to share this good news–that you are my Shepherd–with a friend or family member as the opportunity arises.
For Further Reflection: Catechism of the Catholic Church 550: “The coming of God’s Kingdom means the defeat of Satan’s: ‘If it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the Kingdom of God has come upon you.’ Jesus’ exorcisms free some individuals from the domination of demons. They anticipate Jesus’ great victory over the ‘ruler of this world.’”
Jesus, we ask for your continued victory over the ruler of this world. If it be your will, make us willing laborers in your harvest.
Dorothy Warner is a writer living in the Washington, D.C., area. When not engaged in writing, artisanal baking, volunteering, or gardening, she can be found working for a technology company or spending time with her husband and family, and all their pets.