Catholic homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year B
Theme: VACATION REPURPOSED BY HEROIC LEADERSHIP
By: Fr Andrew Ekpenyong at St Mary Magdalene Cath. Church, Omaha, USA.
Homily for Sunday July 18 2021
1. Vacation Joke. Summer and vacation go together and we just heard our Lord’s attempt at giving His beloved apostles a splendid vacation in today’s Gospel reading (Mk 6:30-34): “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Of course, the crowds found out and they were faced with more work. Well, let’s start with a vacation joke. Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson went on a camping trip as part of their vacation. After a good meal, they went to sleep. Some hours later, Holmes awoke and nudged his faithful friend. “Watson, look up and tell me what you see.” Watson replied, “I see millions and millions of stars.” What does that tell you?” Watson pondered for a minute. “Astronomically, it tells me that there are millions of galaxies and potentially billions of planets….Horologically, I deduce that the time is approximately a quarter past three AM. Theologically, I can see that God is all powerful and that we are small and insignificant. Meteorologically, I suspect that we will have a beautiful day tomorrow. Why, what does it tell you?” Holmes was silent for a minute, then spoke. “Watson, you idiot. You can see the stars because someone has stolen our tent.” Well, the crowds in today’s Gospel basically stole the vacation that our Lord had arranged for His disciples. And what did our Lord do? He repurposed the vacation. Effective leaders, inter alia, repurpose things in the face of difficulties.
2. Heroic Leadership. An enduring metaphor for leadership is that of Shepherd and Sheep. Today‘s 1st Reading (Jer 23:1-6) renounces poor leadership: “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the Lord.” Today’s Responsorial Psalm, the most popular Psalm in Scripture, Psalm 23, extols effective leadership, heroic leadership, transforming leadership, transcendent leadership, in short, Divine leadership. For many people, the care and compassion of the Shepherd in Psalm 23, are mere hopes and not realities. Fortunately, Jesus made Psalm 23 real for the people of His time and for us His 2 billion followers today. He led his disciples beside “still waters” in order to “restore their souls” after the hard work of preaching and healing across towns and villages. He led them and still leads us in the path of righteousness. In the Journal, Psychology Today, Dr Scott T. Allyson wrote in an article titled “Why Jesus is a Hero to Billions”: “Jesus was, and is, a transforming leader, inspiring people and elevating them to new levels of morality”. Non-Christians recognize the heroic leadership of Jesus. For instance, historian and author H. G. Wells wrote, “I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.” Albert Einstein wrote: “I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene….No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus.”
3. Transcendent Leadership. Dear brothers and sisters, today’s Gospel reading makes us feel the transforming presence of our Lord, in the face of difficulties and disappointments. He repurposed the vacation he organized for His disciples into a boot-camp as we heard: “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.” (v.34) By teaching the crowds Himself, He afforded His disciples the rest they justly deserved and at the same time showed compassion to the crowds. He responded with justice and mercy for all concerned. This is transcendent leadership. He sacrificed His leisure time for them, just as He would later sacrifice His life for our salvation. His vacation with His disciples was repurposed into a rally with the crowd. Like Jesus the Good Shepherd, what can we repurpose today? What can we sacrifice for others today, as co-leaders with Christ, as parents, teachers, elected officials, etc? Whatever the difficulties, whether from crowds, or from thieves stealing our tent, or racial tension, or new variants of coronavirus, or violence, extreme temperatures, or floods, etc, we can seek justice for and show compassion to all concerned. Whatever we are facing today, the Lord repurposes them into opportunities of grace for us. This is how we can walk through the valley of the shadow of death and yet fear no evil because Jesus is our Shepherd who turns every stumbling block into a stepping stone, as He leads us to the ultimate Green Pastures in His heavenly kingdom.