Homily for July 19

Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
(Scriptures for today's Mass)

Audio for homily

Right from the top today,
Jeremiah takes on kings, prophets and priests:
Israel’s shepherds, who have misled and scattered the people.
And in the gospel
Jesus is moved with pity for the crowds following him
because they seem like a flock abandoned by their shepherd.

In a nutshell:
the bad news is that shepherds, those who lead God’s people,
sometimes fail to do so faithfully;
the good news is that there’s one Shepherd, Jesus
who never fails the flock.

Pastors are shepherds and every pastor preaching this weekend
is measuring himself against the words of Jeremiah and Jesus
as are their parishioners who will ask,
“Is our shepherd, our pastor, a faithful or unfaithful shepherd?”
And the answer to that question, in every parish, will be mixed.
In any given parish the same pastor
(based on the same ministry, the same liturgies and the same homilies)
will be esteemed by many as eminently faithful                         
and demeaned by others as a scandalous infidel.

There’s a division of opinion in the universal Church as well
when it comes to evaluating the Big Shepherd,
the one who lives in Rome.

There are Catholics who believe that Pope Francis
with all his talk of openness, welcome and mercy,
and his answers for the economic plight of the disenfranchised poor
and his focus on the environment,
that in all of this,
he’s throwing the Church and its teachings under the bus;
while others, at the same time, on the basis of the very same issues,
think he’s the best thing since sliced bread.

Is fidelity then, like beauty, in the eye of the beholder? No.
The shepherd’s fidelity must be evaluated
through three sets of eyes or lenses:
- first, through the eyes of faith in Jesus
who is our Savior and our Judge;
- second, through the eyes of Christ’s Body, the Church,
proclaiming the scriptures and handing on our faith’s Tradition;
- and third, through the eyes of life’s experience
as we struggle to grow in faith
and wrestle with how to live a holy life in these times.

With these eyes, through these lenses
we view and evaluate a pastor’s faithfulness – and our own -
let the faithful be judged as unfaithful – or the unfaithful as faithful.

And that’s just what can happen when we look through only one or two
- but not through all three - of these lenses:
faith in Christ and his word,
and trust in the wisdom of the Church
as we seek to live holy lives in the crucible of our own experience.

If we are to discern our own individual fidelity and goodness,
we need to see ourselves through those three lenses.

- For if pastor and people fail to see through the eyes of Jesus,
they blind themselves to greatest vision that can be theirs.

- Or if pastor and people see only through the eyes of Tradition,
they may loose heart for the struggle for that peace
for which every human heart is longing.

- Or if pastor and people see only
through the eyes of their own experience,
their vision will be myopic, blurred, limited
and unable to focus on the truth and holiness they are called to seek.

Ultimately, neither real beauty nor true fidelity
is found in the eye of the beholder,
but only in, and through, the eyes of God who sees perfectly.

And because we are all “spiritually vision impaired,”
because we all have trouble seeing as God sees,
we need all three of these corrective lenses
- to see, faithfully, as Christ sees in our lives
- to see, faithfully, the wisdom of the Church’s teachings
- and to see, faithfully, that path that leads through our struggles
to a holy way of life.

We thank God for giving us Jesus as our Shepherd:
for in Christ our Brother, we come to see God;
and through Christ’s wisdom, we come to see the truth;
and with Christ’s Body, the Church,
we see in the gifts we offer at this table this morning
the Body and Blood of the only truly faithful Shepherd:
Jesus, the Good Shepherd, who gave his life on the Cross,
for us, his flock.

May Christ shepherd us, his people
and may we shepherd one another,
faithful to his Word, his Church and his truth.


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