Sunday Homilies- Fr. Luke Uebler
“The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’” Words from our Gospel today from the 6th chapter of the Gospel according to St. Mark – sisters and brothers, may the Lord give to you his peace and his joy.
There are so many searching people in the world today, people hungering for instruction, good people who are looking for direction. They may be parents who are sick with grief over the future of a troubled child; a man stripped of his dignity due to unemployment, a woman facing a pregnancy alone; elderly people who can feel the surge of life leave their declining bodies; they may be people who are left disillusioned because of government leadership, or the lack of human progress, or an unsympathetic economy; people who are angry and confused because they believe the Church is no longer dependable. The list goes on and on. There are many of us in this world who find ourselves like sheep without a shepherd, left looking for answers and for meaning.
All of our readings today reveal that God is not indifferent to our plight, but is compassionate and responsive to our needs. God comes to us through the prophet Jeremiah, proclaiming that He will restore justice and peace, that what has been taken away from us will be restored, and that we no longer need to live in fear. In the midst of whatever trouble it is that we are facing, God will make us dwell securely and take care of our needs. Our letter to the Ephesians tells us that God brings reconciliation and unity, not division. Our Psalm beautifully tells us how God makes himself vulnerable to walk with people through the dark valleys of their lives, and moreover gives lavishly so that there is nothing we should want, that we are lacking in nothing. Of course, Jesus is the culmination of this – he is our good shepherd, whose heart truly goes out to his people. Jesus heals the broken, feeds the hungry, offers peace, teaches wisdom; He finds and gives direction to the lost; He has experienced the worst suffering imaginable and knows our hurts. And still, there is nothing that God couldn’t love us through, not even sin and death itself… We know there are many who are lost in this world, many who are seeking refuge, many who are looking for hope. We don’t place our hope in science and human progress; we don’t place our hope in possessions; we don’t place our hope in politics; we don’t even place our hope in people: none of these can bring us that ultimate fulfillment – all of these have their limits and, at some point or another, will lead to disappointment. Our shepherd is Jesus and, ultimately, we place our hope in him, for with Jesus, we have a God who loves us and wants us to have abundant life and can bring good out of whatever situation. We must never lose sight of this or we will find ourselves lost in despair.
As part of Jesus’ outreach and mission to a broken world, he chose fishermen and tax collectors – ordinary folk – to help him build the kingdom of God. We heard how last week he instructed them and empowered them and sent them out on mission to drive evil away and cure the sick. This week, we hear of the manner of their return. They obviously had been successful, for the crowds would not let them alone. People followed them everywhere because they wanted to hear what Jesus and his disciples had to say. Likewise, today, Jesus looks to us disciples to join him in together shepherding his people. Sometimes we wonder, “what can I do?” and we feel helpless in the midst of all the challenges that are thrown at us in life. But as with the motley disciples of old, we are not powerless either. I am reminded of a scene from the Lord of the Rings. Gandalf is explaining why he entrusts the destruction of the one ring, the source of all the evil in the world, to a mere, meek hobbit instead of a more cunning warrior or a powerful wizard such as himself. He says “Saruman believes it is only great power that can hold evil in check, but that is not what I have found. It is the small everyday deeds of ordinary folk that keep the darkness at bay. Small acts of kindness and love. Why Bilbo Baggins? Perhaps because I am afraid, and he gives me courage.” When we look to how power is exploited, and not only power, but all those false hopes that the world offers from possessions, to progress, to imperfect human beings, there is cause to be doubtful. But when we look at our own lives and reflect on the things and people that help us make it through, we find that it is often indeed those small everyday deeds of ordinary folk which never make the history books, those are the things that help us to get through. There are people who are saints to us in their own sphere of life simply because they serve with a heart like Jesus. We may not have authority, wealth or knowledge. However, none of us are powerless. All of us can show care like Jesus and thus can keep the darkness at bay.
In the Gospel of last week, the disciples cast out evil and cured many in their own simple way. The disciples come back today and report their success, which was celebrated and rewarded with a chance to recharge and rest. Inspired by God’s grace, we are likewise doing good work here at St. Mary’s. But we are also called to attend to our needs: by celebrating our achievements, making sure we enjoy some rest and relaxation, and allow ourselves to be ministered to by Jesus, the good shepherd, who cares for us. How fortunate that it is the weekend of the picnic here. The picnic is a great chance for us to celebrate our community, our long-held traditions, and what can happen when people come together to minister in Jesus’ name. It is a chance to rest, to recharge, to enjoy each other’s company, to get away from the burdens of life. And to be here at Church is a chance to recognize that Jesus is once again caring for us and loving us through.