My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
It’s a joy to celebrate this holy Mass with you today!
As I look around this beautiful Cathedral this afternoon, I see the Kingdom of God! We are the universal family of God — one family drawn from every race, people and nation. We are the Communion of Saints making our pilgrim way through the earthly city of this world.
We especially welcome our brothers and sisters from the Los Angeles Council of Religious Leaders. We are working together to make our nation the “family of God” because “We are all citizens of God’s Family.”
Today we are saddened by the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado. Let’s continue to pray for those who were killed and wounded and their families. Let’s pray for Archbishop Aquila, the Archbishop of Denver, and all of our brothers and sisters in the Church in Denver.
May God give them the grace and strength they need to help the victims of this tragedy and to work for healing, reconciliation and peace.
Today’s Gospel passage is a beautiful revelation of the love of God. We hear these touching words about Jesus: His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd. And he began to teach them.
By his human love, Jesus shows us God’s desire. This is how God looks at each of us. With his heart open in tender love. We are his children — the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.2
So this is a great passage to reflect on for our celebration this afternoon.
In this passage we discover the truth that Jesus came to show us. And this is the same truth that our great country was founded on. The truth that all men and women are created equal — with the dignity and rights of the sons and daughters of God.
It doesn’t matter where we were born or what nation, race or people we come from. We are all children of the living God — the Lord of heaven and earth. He gives to everyone life and breath and every good thing. He made the whole human race, from every nation under heaven — to seek him and to find his love.3
So that means we have a duty — as a society and as a Church — to make sure that everyone is treated with dignity and justice. No matter where they come from or how they got here.
In our first reading today, from the prophet of Jeremiah, we heard the voice of our Father speaking directly.
We heard our heavenly Father promise that he will send a good shepherd to defend his people so that they could dwell in justice and righteousness in the land.
Of course as we know, Jesus is that Good Shepherd that God promised to send. And each one of us — you and I — we are the sheep who belong to his flock, which is his Catholic Church.
Our Good Shepherd loves each and every sheep in his flock! With a gentle and tender love.
St. Paul tells us in today’s second reading: “Jesus came and preached peace. ...Through him we have access in one Spirit to the Father!”
This is why our Good Shepherd laid down his life on the cross.4 To bring us peace. To make us one with the Father. To make us sisters and brothers.
Sadly our world has a hard time finding peace. From the tragedy in Denver to the tragedy of war in the Middle East and the ongoing presence of terrorism, to the unwillingness to find a just and compassionate solution of the immigration reality in our country, peace seems to be an impossible dream.
But as the Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI recently said: “We must commit ourselves to achieve peace, leaving aside violence and arms, engaging with personal and communal conversion, with dialogue, with the patience search for possible agreements.”5
Today once again, Jesus says that he knows his sheep and his sheep know him.6 So we need to listen for his voice, my brothers and sisters. He is calling each of us by name. He has a message for us — he has something that he wants each one of us to do.
In his tender love, our Good Shepherd is calling each one of us to follow him. To live by his words and by his example. As we try in our Christian lives to imitate the life of Christ, we also participate in his mission as the Good Shepherd.
In today’s first reading God promises: “I will appoint shepherds so that they no longer fear and tremble and none shall be missing.”
These are beautiful words of hope and comfort! And we have to understand that we are the ones that God is calling to be good shepherds to others.
In our world today, there are so many who are like sheep waiting for a shepherd. There are many who have been scattered and led in the wrong direction by “false shepherds.”
We need to be like Jesus to these lost sheep. We need to open our hearts, to feel moved with his same compassion. As Jesus did, we need to stretch our hands to those in need. We are called to walk with them — and lead them to Jesus.
In a special way today, we should dedicate ourselves to seeking out those in our society who are forced to live in the shadows and on the margins. We have to open our hearts to those who are living in fear and trembling — because of their “status” or because of the “status” of a loved one.
We can’t let any of these brothers and sisters of ours be lost! We need to be good shepherds to them!
This is a special duty of our Catholic Church. The Church’s mission in every age and every society is to be the gateway to Jesus Christ. And this is the work of every Christian.
So my brothers and sisters, today we have an urgent need to intensify our missionary vocation, to unite ourselves to the mission of his Church.
Part of that mission right now is to help our society to do what is just and right. We need to help our society remember the promise of America’s founding.
The promise of America is that we can be one nation under God — where men and women from every race, creed and national background may live as brothers and sisters. The promise of America is that we will be a society that opens its heart to the poor. A society that treats everyone as a child of God.
My brothers and sisters, we are called in this time to be better Catholics and better citizens! By his grace, we can be the presence of Jesus Christ for others. By his grace, we can feel the need to be compassionate and care about others. We can sacrifice ourselves for others as Christ did.
We need to fill our society with the spirit of the Gospel. We need to help rebuild America — in the image of her founders. And in the image of our Father in heaven.
God is counting on each one of us to go out and look for the lost sheep and to bring them back to him. He is counting on us to bring our country back to the beautiful ideals of its founding — as a nation of immigrants, missionaries and saints.
So let us give thanks today for the beautiful diversity that makes us one family of God!
And let us fly to our Blessed Mother Mary, who is the Queen of Peace and the mother of all living.7 Let’s ask her to help us renew our resolution today — to be close to Jesus the Good Shepherd, so that we can help others also come close to him.
1. Readings (Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B): Jer. 23:1-6; Ps. 23:1-6; Eph. 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34.
2. Ps. 95:7.
3. Acts 17:24-29.
4. John 10:11.
5. Remarks at concert offered by the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra (July 11, 2012).
6. John 10:14.
7. Gen. 3:20.