Scripture Reflections – Sunday, July 22nd, 2012

Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mk 6:30-34

16th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In this Sunday’s first reading God has a beef with shepherds (pun intended).   Jeremiah proclaimed these words at a time of great crisis in the history of the people of Israel – the kingdom of Judah had been conquered, Jerusalem and the Temple was in ruins, thousands were exiled into the far reaches of the Babylonian empire. His words are directed at the powers that be – the rulers, aristocrats and, in particular, the Temple priesthood.  All of these “shepherds” who should have been looking out for the people and helping them live the Covenant were instead preoccupied with maintaining their own power and accumulating their own wealth.

It’s a very familiar story. The history of the Church is not so different than the history of the Temple.  The good news is – it only lasts for so long.   God is the true shepherd.  Those who have been given the authority to teach in His name are only really doing so when their first priority, their very reason for being as ministers, is to understand the spiritual and material needs of their people and to do all that they can in cooperation with the Spirit to meet those spiritual needs and help in whatever way they can  towards meeting those material needs.  Those who fail in this most sacred trust, no matter how tightly they cling to the external signs and symbols of their office or how much they insist that others respect their position of leadership, will find thaeir authority evaporate like the morning dew in the warmth of the sun.  Holy Orders is a sacred encounter with the Holy Spirit; but when those who have been called by the Spirit stop listening, She moves on.

The Presidential election this November promises to be extremely close.  A key issue, if not the key issue, that will determine which candidate will win is this – Does every American have a right to health care?

If those who say “No” win the day, how will God view the shepherding of  our bishops on this issue?

Jim Philipps (3rd millennium pilgrim)

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