My dear brothers and sisters in Christ,1
Today we are saddened by the tragic shooting in Aurora, Colorado. It is especially sad for me because I was there for four years. I became a bishop in Denver, Colorado. I was appointed Auxiliary Bishop of Denver and I was there for four years. I said Mass many times at the local parish where this tragedy happened, Queen of Peace Parish in Aurora.
So today let us 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 the strength they need to help the victims of this tragedy and to work for healing, reconciliation and peace.
In these situations, it’s easy for us to feel that need to support each other with prayer. So let’s ask for the grace to be able to do it all the time, so that we can really be one family, the family of God.
The Gospel passage we have just heard this morning gives us a beautiful view into an ordinary moment in the daily ministry of Jesus Christ.
As we probably recall, last Sunday in our Gospel we heard how Jesus sent his twelve apostles out two-by-two on their first mission — to preach the Kingdom, to heal the sick, to drive out demons.
And in our Gospel today, the apostles have just returned from their journey. We can imagine how excited they were. We can imagine that all of them are trying to talk probably at the same time, at once. Talking to Jesus about what happened during those days of their apostolic mission. About, in a sense, their first adventure preaching the Gospel. Trying to tell Jesus about their adventures. They were probably telling him the people they met and the lives they changed through the power of Jesus’ Gospel.
It is also interesting to see — that a lot of people followed the apostles back to find Jesus. Because our Gospel this morning tells us that a “great crowd” was gathered by the Sea of Galilee.
So Jesus calls his apostles to get into the boat to get away from the crowd and rest with him.
I’m always amazed by Jesus’ friendship with his apostles. They are his real friends. We see this throughout the Gospels. He calls each by name. He always wants to be with them. He wants to eat and drink with them. He wants to know how they are feeling and what they are thinking. He wants to pray with them, and he wants to teach them.
And my brothers and sisters, just as the apostles are friends of Jesus, we also are called to a deep personal friendship with Jesus Christ.
Jesus is calling us every day, just as he called his apostles: “Come away with me ... and rest a while.” Even with all our duties of family and work and ministry, we need to make time to be alone with Jesus.
It doesn’t have to be a long period of time. Maybe just finding the time for a holy hour. Or going to daily Mass. Or spending some time reflecting on a passage of the Gospels. Jesus wants to speak to us. He wants to listen to us. He wants us to tell him our daily worries and joys.
That’s what Jesus is trying to teach his apostles and all of us in our Gospel today — that everything we do must be rooted in our friendship with him.
But as we just heard in the passage of the Gospel — Jesus and his apostles are forced to change their plans.
As we heard, they get into the boat and set out across the lake — but the crowds follow them! They must have walked along the shore all the away around the lake. So by the time that Jesus and the apostles got to the other side, this huge crowd was already there waiting for them!
What a beautiful scene this is! All of these people waiting for Jesus! Hungry with a desire to be near him and to hear his words.
In our second reading today, St. Paul tells us that Jesus “came and preached peace.” That’s what these people are looking for. They were coming to Jesus because they could feel that in him they will find peace and reconciliation with God.
That’s exactly what everyone in our world is seeking. Peace. Forgiveness. The breaking down of every wall that divides us and keeps us apart.
But sadly as we have witnessed this week our world has a hard time finding peace. From the tragedy in Denver, to the tragedy of the war in the Middle East, and the ongoing danger of terrorism, peace seems to be an impossible dream.
But as our 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.”2
My brothers and sisters, let us never forget, Jesus Christ is the Prince of Peace. He came and preached peace.
That’s why this scene is so beautiful. Because we see the true humanity of Jesus and the true love of God. We see his deep human emotions. The Gospel tells us that when he saw the people — his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.
By his human love, Jesus shows us God’s love. This is how God looks at us. With his heart open in tender love. We are God’s children — the people he shepherds, the flock he guides.3
In our first reading today, from the prophet Jeremiah, we heard the words of God himself speaking — promising that he will send a good shepherd to guide his people.
And of course as we know, Jesus is that Good Shepherd. And each one of us — you and I — we are the sheep who belong to his flock, which is the Catholic Church.
The Lord is our Shepherd. And he is calling us. We need to respond to his voice. We need to come to him and stay close to him and be his friends. Just as the apostles were. We need to follow him and live by his words and by his example.
My brothers and sisters, as we ask for the gift of peace, as we see the need to have this close friendship with Jesus Christ, let us also open our hearts to renew our apostolic mission. Because Jesus to be good shepherds for others.
We have an urgent need to intensify our missionary vocation, to unite ourselves to the mission of his Church. The work of peace is a gift from God. But it also depends on our personal commitment to bring peace and to share the gift of peace with the people around us.
As Jesus sent his apostles out, he sends us out too — into our workplaces, into our homes and neighborhoods. He calls us to be good shepherds to the people we meet.
In our world today, there are so many who are like sheep waiting for a shepherd. There are so many who have been scattered and led in the wrong direction by “false shepherds.” They are like sheep without a shepherd. And my brothers and sisters, they are waiting for us to lead them to the Good Shepherd, Jesus.
So this week, let’s try to work a little harder on our personal friendship with Jesus Christ. Maybe we can find the time to spend a little more time with him — maybe reading the Gospels, maybe coming to daily Mass, maybe praying for our brothers and sisters around us, and being more in the presence of God every day.
And let us ask Mary our Blessed Mother, who is the Queen of Peace, to help us have more peace in our hearts and to share that peace with those around us. Let us ask her to help us to imitate Jesus the Good Shepherd, so that we can be good shepherds for the people around us— helping others to 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. Remarks at concert offered by the West-eastern Divan Orchestra (July 11, 2012).
3. Ps. 95:7.