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July 15, 2009
July 19: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Overview: In light of the “Year for Priests” this week’s readings invite us in a special way to reflect on the beautiful gift of the priesthood to the Church—especially in terms of their role as preachers and teachers. In our first reading God denounces the “shepherds” of Israel “who mislead and scatter the flock” through idolatrous practices and false teachings. They were more concerned about appeasing the king and telling the people what they wanted to hear rather than being true to God. The Psalm echoes the first reading as it simultaneously points to the Gospel where Christ is portrayed as the Good Shepherd who leads his disciples to a place of rest where he refreshes them with his teachings. The second reading speaks of peace that can only be mediated through Christ who “preached peace to you who were far off (Gentiles) and peace to those who were near (Jews).” If we’re alienated from others it’s because we’re alienated from God. Peace begins when we’re reconciled with God first. After taking his disciples to a quiet place to rest for awhile, Jesus returns to the crowds who were “like sheep without a shepherd.” Jesus shows his love for them by teaching them the truth.
“Catechism of the Catholic Church”: “In the ecclesial service of the ordained minister, it is Christ himself who is present to his Church as Head of his Body, Shepherd of his flock, high priest of the redemptive sacrifice, Teacher of Truth. This is what the Church means by saying that the priest, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, acts in persona Christi Capitis” (No. 1548).
Pope Benedict XVI: “The homily is part of the liturgical action, and is meant to foster a deeper understanding of the word of God, so that it can bear fruit in the lives of the faithful. Hence ordained ministers must prepare the homily carefully, based on an adequate knowledge of sacred Scripture. Generic and abstract homilies should be avoided. In particular, I ask these ministers to preach in such a way that the homily closely relates the proclamation of the word of God to the sacramental celebration and the life of the community, so that the word of God truly becomes the Church’s vital nourishment and support” (“Sacramentum Caritatis,” 46).
Application: This week’s Gospel immediately precedes the feeding of the 5,000, which we’ll hear about next week. The liturgical significance of these two stories should be apparent: The Church, through her ministers, “receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body” (“Dei Verbum,” 21). It’s not easy preparing a homily day after day, week after week. Still, following the lead of the Good Shepherd clergy have a vital duty to feed the flock from the “table” of God’s word so that it “truly becomes the Church’s vital nourishment and support.” They need your encouragement.