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The Tender Voice of the Shepherd
Saturday of the Fourth Week in Ordinary Time
The Return of the Twelve & The Feeding of the Five Thousand
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.
Opening Prayer: Lord Jesus, be my Good Shepherd in whom I find my rest, nourishment, and direction.
- The Heart of the Good Shepherd: Do we truly know the heart of our Good Shepherd? Our unfamiliarity with shepherd culture obscures the significance of Jesus as our Good Shepherd. In Biblical times, good shepherds would risk their lives to protect their flock. The livelihood of their family depended on their sacrificial spirit, diligence, dependability, and bravery. They tempered tenderness with firmness as they taught their sheep to obey their commands, even calling them by name so they would respond individually to the shepherd’s voice. Shepherds protected their flock from predators and varied seasonal conditions, drawing water in the heat of summer, sheltering them in the cool of night or winter, reassuring them with a calm voice, counting them daily to make sure none were lost, and checking on their health regularly.Can you recognize the heart of Jesus in this description? Let’s contemplate the heart of your Good Shepherd who calls us by name, protects us, cares for us, quenches our thirst, keeps his eyes on us, and sacrifices his life for us.
- “Come Away by Yourselves”: Jesus had sent out the apostles to teach, preach, expel demons, and cure illnesses. He knew of their enthusiasm as well as their disappointment upon their return. He gathered them together listening to them share stories of their adventures, their excitement over miracles, their confusion over failures to expel demons or cure all illness. He rejoiced with them over new followers for the kingdom. He knew their hearts and their need to refresh themselves. He invited them to spend time with him, the source and end of all their busy activities. Lord, I will join the apostles and rest with you a moment to experience the joy of being with you.
- Discovering the Voice of the Good Shepherd: The apostles’ rest was short-lived when crowds appealed to the compassionate heart of Jesus. He could not send them away. His very existence as Son of the Father is “for-others.” If there is hope of even one of them coming to new life in God, he will open his arms. The apostles must have grumbled at the thought of stepping out of their comfort zone once again. But the Lord called them by his very example. Can we hear the voice of the Good Shepherd calling to us to “be for the other”? It is a gentle and tender voice. Perhaps it is almost imperceptible amidst the chaos of daily life where we long for rest.
Conversing with Christ: Lord Jesus, teach me to recognize your voice and respond with generosity. Grant me a heart like your own–a shepherd’s heart willing to sacrifice and step out of my comfort zone with generosity to be your heart for others.
Resolution: Lord, today by your grace I will listen to the promptings of your heart to mine, to care for others.
For Further Reflection: Pictures can be a means of contemplation. If it helps you, make use of a Good Shepherd image, imagining yourself being held in the arms of your Good Shepherd.
Jennifer Ristine is a consecrated woman of Regnum Christi who is dedicated to spiritual and faith formation through teaching, conferences, writing, and spiritual direction. While serving in Ancient Magdala she wrote Mary Magdalene: Insights from Ancient Magdala.