Cycle “B” -- The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (2015) Lectionary: 107 (JER 23:1-6; PS 23:1-3, 3-4, 5,6; EPH 2:13-18; MK 6:30-34) Frances Alice McLeod Kirkland had a picture of the Sacred Heart of Jesus prominently displayed on her living room wall. Nothing particularly noteworthy about that. Except that Grandma Kirkland was born in 1890 in rural Alabama. She spent most of her life in the Piney Woods criss-crossing the Texas-Louisiana border as her husband followed the seasonal work in the sawmills. She is buried in Huntington, Texas, just outside Lufkin. Grandma Kirkland was a devout, lifelong Methodist. When her Methodist friends would point at the picture on the wall and say “Don’t you know that is a Catholic picture?”, she would respond “I don’t care. It’s beautiful.” The most engaging image of Jesus -- for Catholics and for Protestants (even for non-Christians. I have seen a picture of the Sacred Heart in a gift shop of a Hindu temple in India) -- is the Sacred Heart of Jesus. “His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Mk 6:34 In the Greek, “esplagchnisthE” Literally, “He was inwardly moved with compassion” It is one of a series of Greek words -- splancha or “inward parts”, koilia or “bosom”, kardia or “heart” -- that are used in Scripture to denote the deep inward life of a person. We know from Scripture that God is a Spirit but amazingly we also know from Scripture that He has a heart. God’s heart is the center of who He is. From His heart pour forth love, mercy, and compassion which characterize who He is and direct His action toward all of creation especially us, humankind. For God has pity and mercy on us for the wretchedness we have embraced from the ordinary everyday sins of anger and lust and lying to the glib rationalization of the most vile atrocities as we have seen in the past few days in the videos of trafficking in fetal tissue. In an act of what the Fathers of the Church called Divine Condescension, God has decided not to leave us to our own devices but to break into our world and act in His Incarnation. God the Son becomes a human being, and His heart expresses God’s heart. We hear in the second reading He “broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh” Eph 2:14. In traditional synagogues there was a low wall down the middle, the mechitza, with women on one side and men on the other. In the temple in Jerusalem a wall separated the Court of the Gentiles from the interior sanctuary of the temple. On it was a sign that warned you if you were a Gentile that you could go no farther, on pain of death. As St. John Chrysostom happily proclaims “The soldier pierced the Lord’s side, he breached the wall of the sacred temple, and I have found the treasure and made it my own.” Catecheses 3, 13-19 In His own flesh Christ has put to death the enmity between us and brought us peace, He has done away with the wall that separates Jew from Gentile, slave from free, man from woman, humanity from God, and made us one people, one new person. For the riven Heart of Christ is Heart of a Shepherd. And to understand what a shepherd is we need only look at today’s Psalm. The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul. The shepherd brings us peace and repose. He delivers us from strife. He guides me in right paths for his name’s sake. Even though I walk in the dark valley I fear no evil; for you are at my side with your rod and your staff that give me courage. He leads us in the narrow path of right. As Jeremiah said “The Lord our Righteousness”. He keeps us on the straight and narrow of what is good and just. And for those who follow the Shepherd there is NO FEAR! You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes; you anoint my head with oil; my cup overflows Every Sunday the Shepherd spreads the banquet of the Eucharist for us and the Cup of Blessing overflows with grace. Scripture says that Christ was anointed with the Holy Spirit, the oil of gladness. We too in confirmation have been anointed with that same Holy Spirit. Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life; and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come. For the Shepherd brings us into His House. The desire of the Shepherd is to bring us into communion with each other and with Himself. Here is the challenge: We read in Jeremiah today “Woe to the shepherds!” To the false shepherds who mislead the flock, who scatter the flock, who drive away the flock, who do not care for the flock. Or we could read in other places in the Prophets “Woe to the priests!” No one who has even the smallest share in the pastoral ministry of the Church can read this passage in Jeremiah without feeling just a bit uncomfortable. But this warning is not just for pastoral leaders! We read in St. Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God. 2 Cor 1:3-4 The source of all our actions to those we minister to is the mercy we have received. Whether we are talking about our spouse or children, our co-workers, or people we meet on the street, we are called to show them the same mercy we have been shown. Recall the Parable of the Unforgiving Servant (MT 18:21-35). The servant owes his master a tremendous sum of money, on the order of tens of thousands of gold pieces, but his master forgives the debt. The servant goes outside and meets a fellow servant who owes him a few silver coins. He is outraged and throws the man into debtor’s prison. And the wrath of his master falls on the wicked servant. It is not for nothing that Jesus teaches us to pray “Forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us”. Our Holy Father in his exhortation The Joy of the Gospel expands on this duty to “pay forward” the mercy we have received. Our personal experience of being accompanied and assisted, and of openness to those who accompany us, will teach us to be patient and compassionate with others, and to find the right way to gain their trust, their openness and their readiness to grow. -- EVANGELII GAUDIUM #172 St. James is more blunt in his Epistle So speak and so act as people who will be judged by the law of freedom. For the judgment is merciless to one who has not shown mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment. James 2:12-13 Our goal every day should be to seek to make our heart the Heart of the Shepherd. Let our prayer be the little prayer that closes the Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus: Jesus, meek and humble of Heart. Make our hearts like unto thine. Praised be Jesus Christ!