Homily: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Homily: Smell Like the Sheep
“His heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd.”
Understanding the backdrop for today’s reading is important.
The Lord has sent out these apostles to preach and hear in his name.
They had gone out and come back.
He asked them how it was and he had listened to them.
They told him everything they saw and did
but they were obviously exhausted as they had little time to even eat.
So he nourishes them.
He says let’s go away and rest awhile.
Instead, this crowd follows and finds them
going ahead to the place where Jesus was going and where the disciples are.
His reaction isn’t one-will these people leave me alone?
Can’t they just leave me alone?
There was no reaction like that.
He was moved with pity for them.
Other translations say that he was “moved with compassion” for them.
Both of those translations really struggle to encapsulate the original Greek.
The word has more of a reference to the “gut of his insides” reaction.
We know that sense when something sad or bad happens
-we see somebody or we hear of something and
we have that gut-wrenching feeling of sadness or pain.
We may hear of somebody who loses a child and
there is a gut-wrenching reaction;
we can feel it inside in our stomach.
It is that empathy that causes our heart to ache for the other person.
That sense of intimacy is what Christ has with this crowd of people in need.
He feels this gut reaction and out of him comes
the immediate response to meet their needs.
Thus, leaving the apostles and disciples with a powerful witness.
Even though it is our priority to rest awhile
-and it is a good priority
-and it ought to be done,
there are times when the crowd is in need
and we still need to tend to them because it is of that intimate reaction.
Every good mother or father knows when they are their last straw
but their child falls and hurts themselves
and up they rise to the need of their child.
Bear in mind who we have in Christ: He is the Son of God.
Yet often times, we think of Christ’s humanity in a sort of a shell way;
that he was not really fully human.
We tend to deify Christ too quickly.
We forget that he was truly human too.
And this is the perfect example of that truly human empathy
that we all have felt at some time
-that Christ feels our pain
-that he really gets it deep down in his gut.
Of course, he models for us what we are called to be as leaders;
he is saying this to his disciples.
In today’s letter from the prophesy of Jeremiah,
he is a little less kind in his words;
he is trying to tell the leaders you are worthless
-you are terrible, absolutely worthless shepherds.
He was talking to the religious leaders and the kings at the time.
Pope Francis has picked this up in his language as Pope.
He too has been pretty harsh on the priests and the bishops of the world.
He is saying you are not really getting it!
We really need to be pastoral.
We really need to be with the people.
We need to have that sense of empathy;
to not use our position as a position of power
but as a position of being with the people.
Where does the Pope see this going?
He sees it at the furthest extreme-in the people who are most in need.
So he picks up this very same metaphor of shepherds,
which is so foreign to us.
There is probably nobody here who personally knows a shepherd.
We do not have them hanging around in the hills here in Silicon Valley.
So this image does not speak to us readily
but the Pope still uses it because it is still one of those archetype images
that still is easy to comprehend, at least intellectually.
The Pope calls all priests and bishop to be shepherds to the sheep.
What type of leadership is Pope Francis asking for?
It is a very beautiful phrase:
He says I want shepherds who smell like the sheep.
In other words, shepherds who are with the sheep;
who live with the sheep;
who know what the needs of the sheep are.
While the Pope, the prophet Jeremiah and Christ all speak
of this image of the shepherd to the leaders,
they do not stop there at the leadership of the Church
but they move it down to a level
where every one of us as disciples is called into that shepherding process.
We are all called to care for those who are in need.
The Pope goes on to say, “We are all called to be missionary disciples.”
What that means in his view is that we are all called
“to the encounter of God’s love in Christ with every person in need.”
A group of over 100 parishioners just got back from a mission trip to Nicaragua.
Many of us have known people who have gone to Nicaragua
over these last several years and
we represent this parish to those who are on the furthest extremes.
It is not enough just to settle ourselves with doing that once a year.
It is not enough to settle ourselves that we, as a parish, send off 100 people.
It is great but it must be for every one of us
willing to reach out to those in need.
We need to be moved with pity for every person
whose life is turned upside down.
It may not be in Nicaragua but everywhere we go.
For every person, who is homeless
-who is struggling with mental illness
-who is struggling in a broken marriage
-who is struggling with their place in society because they are gay,
we are called to reach out to them.
We are called to be empathetic and to feel that pity
-that gut reaction that hurts along with them.
It is not just the leaders.
The leaders absolutely but every one of us is called to that.
Today as we listen to this gospel,
we need to look at our own lives, including myself,
to look and see who it is that needs that shepherding.
Who is it that needs that compassion?
Who is it that needs that touch of generosity?
Who is it that needs that touch of humanity?
That God loves them and they need to know that
Your role and my role is to share that with them through a touch;
through a kind word;
through some gesture that makes it evident today
that God loves them just where they are.
-Patricia Datchuck Sanchez, “Celebration: An Ecumenical Worship Resource,” (Kansas City, Missouri: National Catholic Reporter Company, Inc., July 19, 2015).