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jesus_shepherdLord Jesus, help me to follow you faithfully
and offer assistance to our brothers and sisters
who may wander.
Teach me to know the ways I can begin
to live and share eternal life
while in this world.
Thank you for sending your Holy Spirit
to bring me into the intimacy of your relationship
with the Father.

Enlarge my heart
to embrace those who have wandered from you
and help me to love and protect them
with the heart of a shepherd.
Amen.

 
Adapted from The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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shepherdA reading from the Book of the Prophet Jeremiah
(Chapter 23:1-6)
 
Jeremiah was one of the most courageous and tortured of all the prophets. Today’s reading from his prophecy was composed in the context of the battle for power between the Babylonians and the Egyptians with Judea, and specifically Jerusalem, in the middle. The Jewish king Zedekiah was torn between the two enemies and was weak. Jeremiah has a message from God for the king and the people. “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture. … You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. … I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; … Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is right and just in the land. In his days Judah will be saved.”
 
Over the centuries Israel had many kings—some good, such as David, the best, and many others weak and dishonest, such as Zedekiah, who was responsible for the horrible Babylonian Exile and the destruction of Jerusalem. Jeremiah has God promising to send a new king in the quality of the great king David. Of course, the Gospels tell us that Jesus came from the line of David, so his disciples saw him as that righteous shepherd.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 23:1-3,3-4,5,6)
 
“The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.” This is the most quoted and prayed line in all the Psalms, even though shepherds are not a part of our daily lives or thinking. That’s because, for us, Jesus is the shepherd. He is always with us and takes care of us. Do you believe that? How have you experienced the care of Jesus?
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 2:13-18)
 
This letter has some of the deepest and most meaningful messages for our faith. Here, Paul wants to bridge the gap between Jews and Gentiles.
 

“In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace. … He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father.”

 
Paul was a devout Jew who loved his people and saw that their salvation was right there in Jesus. He also became friends with many Gentiles, and he saw that they, too, are called to follow Jesus: “Through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.” Paul spent his life trying to bring these two peoples together. Sometimes he succeeded, but more often he did not. It was a source of great suffering for him, but it never deterred him from his mission.
 
Sometimes, we, too, succeed in what is most important to us, and sometimes we seem to fail. But there is always another day, another chance, if we remember that we, too, are called to bring peace and love to all people, starting with those closest to us.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 6:30-34)
 
Here we have the theme of Jesus as the Good Shepherd following from the two previous readings. The apostles have been out proclaiming the good news, teaching, and doing good deeds for the people. Jesus tells them, “’Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest for a while.’ …People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” Jesus is being the Good Shepherd to his apostles, telling them to take a break, have a meal, share stories from the road. But it doesn’t work. “People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them.”
 
Now, we see Jesus as the Good Shepherd for all the people. “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.” This notion of Jesus being the Good Shepherd is somewhat foreign to us who have never met a shepherd, but it was a powerful image for people of his time. It meant safety, caring, nurturing, and fidelity to the task of protecting. Those are things we can relate to in our lives. Jesus is our Protector.

 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Gracious God, in Jesus words
we are invited to be partners in his work
of witnessing to your kingdom on earth.
In his words,
we are reminded of the mission and responsibility
that we received in our baptism.
Keep our hearts, eyes, and ears open,
so that daily we will respond to your call.
With courage and humility,

relying on your grace,
may we be agents of healing,
bearers of truth,
and messengers of hope.
We offer this prayer through Jesus Christ, our Lord.
Amen.

 
From The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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A reading from the Book of the Prophet Amos
(Chapter 7:12-15)
 
“Amaziah, priest of Bethel, said to Amos, ‘Off with you, visionary, flee to the land of Judah! There earn your bread by prophesying, but never again prophesy in Bethel.” Amaziah is protecting his own turf and accusing Amos of being a prophet for money. Amos assures him that he is not a prophet but instead is “a shepherd and a dresser of sycamores.” But then, “The Lord took me from following the flock, and said to me, ‘Go prophesy to my people Israel.’ ”
 
People like Amos do not wake up one day and say, “I think I want to be a prophet.” No! A prophet has to be called by God, and Amos was indeed called by God. Of course, Amaziah could not see any of that, and so he refused to honor God’s call to Amos.
 
Amos preached against the corruption of the kingdom and the neglect of the poor, so like most prophets he was not popular in his time.
 
Responsorial Psalm
(Psalm 85:9-10,11-12,13-14)
 
“Lord, let us see your kindness, and grant us your salvation.” God’s kindness is always there for us even when God seems so far away and silent. Often, we can meet God in that very silence if we can shut off all the everyday noise and listen.
 
A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Ephesians
(Chapter 1:3-14)
 
Here we have a powerful statement about our redemption: “In him we have redemption by his blood, the forgiveness of transgressions, in accord with the riches of his grace that he lavished upon us.” Then later we hear. “In him you also, who have heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and have believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, which is the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption.”
 
Many scripture scholars believe that Paul wrote this letter while in prison in Rome where he would be executed. The letter was passed around the various Christian communities for the next twenty years as a summary of just what salvation in and from Jesus Christ really meant. As we hear it today, we know that it is about our redemption that has already started with the presence of the Holy Spirit within our very being NOW, in this life which Paul calls “the first installment of our inheritance toward redemption.” Yes, our redemption has already started.
 
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
(Chapter 6:7-13)
 
Jesus sends the apostles out two by two but with only the bare bones for travel: a staff and sandals but only one tunic and “no food, no sack and no money in their belts.” “Wherever you enter a house,” he tells them, “stay there until you leave. Whatever place does not welcome you or listen to you, leave there and shake the dust off your feet in testimony against them.” These are not easy journeys. We know that all the apostles except John were murdered, martyred for the cause; but while they were alive they continued the work of their leader. “The Twelve drove out many demons, and they anointed with oil many who were sick and cured them.” Many people accepted the “Good News” of salvation, but many more did not. The Romans thought Christians were another dangerous cult, and many Jews also believed Christians were a danger to the established order. Yet, the disciples moved on, and their communities multiplied from villages, to towns, to cities, including Rome. Some people accepted Jesus as the long-awaited Messiah, and many more accepted Jesus as God himself, sent by the Father to save all people. Because of their courage and determination, we share their faith. It is an amazing gift that the apostles have given to us, their legacy in faith. Let us remember to be thankful to them who gave their lives for us and for centuries of believers.
 
Excerpts from the English translation of the Lectionary for Mass © 1969, 1981, 1997, International Commission on English in the Liturgy Corporation (ICEL). All rights reserved.
 
Bill Ayres was a founder, with the late singer Harry Chapin, of WhyHunger. He has been a radio and TV broadcaster for 40 years and has two weekly Sunday-night shows on WPLJ, 95.5 FM in New York. He is a member of Our Lady Queen of Martyrs Church in Centerport, New York.

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Lord, as Catholics we are called to believe—
in the Trinity,
in the birth, death, and resurrection of Jesus,
in the “one, holy, catholic and apostolic” church.
We are called to believe that we are forgiven
and that we will rise again with you.
Lord, I sometimes struggle with these beliefs.
It is hard for me to keep things simple.
Life in this time and place is complex

and its pressures intrude relentlessly.
Help me to listen for your voice,
to find you in others,
and to respond when you call me by name.
Help me on my journey
to grow ever closer to you.
Amen.

 
From The People’s Prayer Book, © RENEW International.

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