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Sunday gospel reflection

Never shepherd your flock alone

‘...tell them to grow from lambs into fellow shepherds’
/ 05:20 AM July 22, 2018

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jeremiah: 23: 1-6; Psalm 23, Response: The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want; Ephesians 2: 13-18; Mark 6: 30-34

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.”

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What struck me about this line was not so much the compassion, although it is still a core Christian value, but what Christ did out of compassion.

“…He began to teach them many things,” a rather striking move of a leader, but for Christ it is his core.

Here lies a key to his compassion and leadership.

Moved with compassion, he does not give them a dole-out, but he teaches them. He empowers them.

The same is so true to this day. Service born out of compassion does not dole out, but empowers. It teaches others to discover their inner core, their dreams and their soul.

In a July 19, 2018 homily in the Mass for the second day of the 5th Philippine Conference on New Evangelization, Bishop Pablo “Ambo” David shared the story of back-to-back murders of the night before (four days ago today) in Caloocan, his diocese. (Visit https://youtu.be/VEnN0Zia-MY for the full video of the homily.)

Masked men

At 8 p.m., Jennifer Taburada, 27, was shot by two masked men. She was the widow of Ryan, who was murdered in the same manner a year earlier.

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Her murder left as full orphans an 11-year-old son, Prince Junior, and a 13-year-old daughter, Princess.

At 11:30 p.m., the killers shot Alvin Teng, 36, just a few blocks from where they murdered Jennifer.

The Bishop said that the police did not seem to have any sense of urgency to run after the killers, and even allowed them to take their time, close to four hours in the neighborhood, before carrying out the second execution.

Bishop David expressed his pain, frustration and shame at not being able to protect his flock, for not being the good shepherd that he should be.

The morning after, in prayer, he received this message from the Lord.

“You are right, Ambo, you are not the good shepherd. I am… I only entrusted the flock to you. They are mine… You are not the messiah. I am… I only ask you to represent me. Speak to my flock and tell them to grow from lambs to fellow shepherds. Never shepherd your flock alone. It is only by uniting yourself with your flock that you can grow together into the church which is my body, the body of the shepherd, and it is only then that you can say, ‘I am the good shepherd.’”

“Speak to my flock and tell them to grow from lambs into fellow shepherds.” This was what Christ did to the people who “were like sheep without a shepherd.” He taught them to empower them.

This was followed by the multiplication of the loaves and fish. In this episode, Christ also empowers his closest disciples when he tells them they need to feed the thousands after a whole day of teaching.

He empowers them by letting them think of a solution. In John’s version, you have Philip, who said the problem was impossible to solve even with “two hundred days’ wages,” and Andrew who brought a young lad with five loaves and two fish. It was Andrew and the young lad who made the miracle possible.

Helplessness

I forwarded the link to the video of Bishop David’s homily to several of my Viber groups. The responses ranged from sadness to anger and sadly, indifference or apathy. Was this born out of a sense of helplessness?

The first reading issues a strong warning: “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 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.” (Jeremiah 23)

We rejoice in this promise and take courage with faith and hope, but God expects us to be his partners, instruments in his hands.

We are now called to build communities of compassion, communities of care that will empower all to “grow from lambs to fellow shepherds.”

As I write, I listen to radio reports about the protests to be staged tomorrow (Monday). I have nothing against these protests. I pray they will always be peaceful.

I also pray that more action will come from more sectors and, beyond protest action, action to build communities founded on our shared humanity, communities that empower because they care for and teach each other.

I pray we will all begin building these communities—let us build it now before it is too late. Too late for God’s will to happen, too late to save people like Jennifer, Alvin, Ryan, Prince Junior, Princess, and the tens of thousands killed by death squads the past two years. Too late when more, even us, will be completely robbed of our ability to dream. —CONTRIBUTED

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