The theme of the Lord’s providing shepherds for his people fills the reading from Jeremiah. The Psalm is the beautiful ‘Shepherd’ psalm. The theme surfaces again in the Gospel.
The Gospel gives us what might be seen as a day in the public life of Jesus and we see something of what kind of person he is and how he habitually acts.
The Twelve have just returned from their first preaching, healing mission. They have been given power and have cast out unclean spirits and healed the sick. We can easily imagine they were excited and very pleased with themselves. Now there were crowds around and a lot of activity. Jesus decides they clearly need to go away for quiet time in solitude to calm down and reflect on what has happened, get some understanding of it and put it in proper perspective.
But when they arrive at the familiar lonely place, it too is crowded with people wanting to see and hear Jesus. No regret or irritation at the thwarting of his plans. Jesus has compassion on these people because they are lost, like sheep without a shepherd. They need the light of truth to guide them. They need encouragement, they need to feel free. They, at least to some extent, know and acknowledge their need, so they have come in hope to see and hear Jesus.
They need the message it is Jesus’ mission to bring them, so, in compassion and love, he begins to teach them. He doesn’t just give them enough to satisfy them for the moment and then go back to his plan. He gives himself generously and teaches them at some length. Compassion, generosity and self-giving are the most marked characteristics of Jesus and of the God he reveals.
Sr. Genevieve Mooney OP