Tuesday 31 March 2015

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B

Family members these days seem to be getting busier and busier with their own thing. Parents are busy with work, socialising with their friends, doing all sorts of errands, and other matters to attend to. Children are busy with school, college or university, socialising with their friends, doing errands entrusted to them, and other matters that crop up. Work, study and personal interests have become more and more important, at the expense of family life, family bonding and couple bonding. If left unchecked, family relationships suffer. We hear of more and more cases of couples divorcing, children developing social problems, and when these children grow up, they move away and abandon their aging parents, or even become misfits in society. The reason for these problems is that family members just do not seem to have time for each other, they have lost that bonding or loving feeling, they drift apart.

When it comes to our relationship with God, we too could be drifting away from Him when we pray less, when we seldom come to church, when we don’t hear His word in the bible, when we do not spend much time listening to Him in front of the Blessed Sacrament, and when we do not get involved in the various church activities. We become more and more engrossed with the ways of the world, while becoming less and less connected to God. We begin to lose our ability to listen to His voice, until one day, we may find that we have become alienated from Him. Why? Because we have, through our actions, attitude and behaviour, chosen to abandon Him, even though we may not always realise it until it is too late. On the other hand, God has not abandoned us. In fact, He is constantly looking out for us, earnestly and tenderly calling us to return to Him, but we have neglected or have become less and less sensitive to listen to His voice.

In today’s gospel reading, we see how the apostles themselves were so enthusiastically caught up with their work that they had forgotten the need to spend time with one another and with Jesus. Work is good and important, but spending time with one another and with God in prayer and reflection is more important. We sometimes forget that we are not superman or superwoman, since without prayer, we will not have the spiritual strength, stamina and energy to face the many challenges of life which come our way. We will soon experience burnout, fatigue and frustration.

In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah has issued a stern warning to all of us, clergy, religious and laity alike: "Doom for the shepherds who allow the flock of my pasture to be destroyed and scattered... You have let my flock be scattered and go wandering and have not taken care of them. Right, I will take care of you for your misdeeds..." Each and every one of us have been called and chosen to be shepherds in our own situations, and we have been entrusted to the moral, educational and spiritual development of not only ourselves, but also of those under our care. If we fail or neglect to take care of the pastoral needs of all under our care, then God will "raise up shepherds to look after them and pasture them." We will face the consequences of our neglect. Are we aware of this? Have we taken the necessary steps to address this before it is too late?

Being a shepherd caring for God's flock is certainly no easy task. Moreover, the shepherd is not only the clergy, since each and every one of us are called to be shepherds in our own way and in our own circumstances. We must follow the example of Jesus, the Good Shepherd, but if we have been so caught up with our own busy schedule that we have no time for God, for our families or others, then how are we going to be effective shepherds and effective witnesses of the Gospel? No. We cannot nourish others if we ourselves are malnourished or stressed out. That is why we must heed Jesus' voice, beckoning us in today’s Gospel to "come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while." Let us not take lightly or play play with Jesus' invitation. Rather, let us seize the opportunity to rest a while with the Lord and with each other, so that we will be rejuvenated and recharged to become effective shepherds in our different situations, following after the example of Jesus, our loving and Good Shepherd.

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