10th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A
Exodus 19:2-6a; Romans 5:6-11; Matthew 9:36-10:8
June 17/18, 2023
I would like to talk about something today that I believe may be on each of our hearts in this parish.
“At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.” (Matthew 5:36)
How appropriate are those words for us today especially for us in this parish in the last few weeks.
Jesus, present right now in that tabernacle and soon to be on this altar in his Real Presence, his body and blood, soul and divinity, is now looking at us gathered here just as he looked at the crowds 2000 years ago. He is looking with concern and love because we too are like lost sheep. We too feel troubled and abandoned, concerned and saddened because we have lost one shepherd’s voice and will soon lose another voice.
Sheep recognize one single voice, their shepherd’s voice. They follow that voice, and they become alarmed if another voice is raised.
Yes, Jesus is gazing at us with love and concern knowing full well that we as a parish grieve the loss of the voice of Father Tom and grieve the soon-to-be lost the voice of Father Matt. Father Tom was dearly loved by so many, and now Father Matt will soon leave us, suddenly being called to a new assignment. Jesus is looking at us with concern, and his human heart aches for all of us whom he dearly loves.
Too many losses in too short a time! Good men taken from us. We are grieving the loss of these two good men. We ask why, and what are we to do.
What did Jesus do 2000 years ago when he saw those crowds of people? He sent them new shepherds, faithful shepherds. Yes, he sent them good shepherds. He ordered those new shepherds to be single-minded in purpose. They were not to get distracted by passing concerns. They were to stay sharp, vigilant, focused. Jesus sent them good shepherds with these instructions: “Go to these lost sheep. Don’t dawdle in pagan territory. Don’t get caught up in worldly distractions, but go straightaway, to the sheep. Go tell the sheep that I am with them. Tell them that I am the Good Shepherd! Tell them all that I am doing and will do for them. Tell them about me!” Jesus not only sent these shepherds, but he expected results from them. He told them to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. Jesus gave them a tall order and he expected a lot from them.
Jesus does the same for us in Caledonia and Brownsville. He will send us — I hope — a good shepherd, a shepherd with the same instructions, the same expectations, and the same mission.
We may ask ourselves: “Do we need a new shepherd, a new voice, a new pastor? What possible good can come from in having lost two good shepherds in such short order, Father Tom and Father Matt? It almost seems too much, too unfair, and too difficult!
I remind you that nothing is outside of God’s will. This change is part of God’s will for us and for them. God takes all things and makes them a part of his plan for bringing about good in the world. What is that good that God will accomplish among us? I can only surmise. Here is my take on it.
I think God is allowing this change for us, the people of St. Patrick’s and St. Mary’s, so we will become (dare I say?) better disciples, better sheep, better Christians, better witnesses. I am not in any way implying Father Matt or Father Tom were deficient pastors! Far from it! We all know how good they were. Nor am I criticizing our parishes. I just think Jesus is allowing all this so that we too will be better equipped to go out there, into the world, and tell everyone what Jesus has done for us in Caledonia and Brownsville. I think it may be Jesus’ way of saying to us, “I am with you always. I am the Good Shepherd who never abandons his sheep. So, stay sharp. Don’t be distracted. Remain focused. Tell people all that I am doing and will do for them.” Yes, maybe Jesus is saying something like that to us. I believe that Jesus has allowed their departure, and is now sending us a new pastor, so that we the people may be renewed voices in that world out there, voices that will tell everyone who Jesus is, what he has done and will do for us, and yes to tell everyone what we have suffered, gone through, in being faithful to him and the Church. I think God is allowing these losses in our parishes so that we may indeed arise from our grief and speak more clearly to all who will listen about our faith in Jesus and the Church. I think God wants us, just like he wanted those men he sent out 2000 years ago, to be so bold as to cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse lepers, and drive out demons. By this I mean we can and must give new life to others by our words and behavior. We can and must cleanse others of their hurts by forgiving them and having the courage to love them. We can and must drive out demons by casting all our cares, worries, and grief upon the Lord and rely totally on God. When we do that, demons have no room in our lives to dwell.
Remember the last line in today’s Gospel: “Without cost you have received; without cost you are to give.” (Matthew 10:8) Without cost we have been blessed by Father Tom and Father Matt. So I ask all of us today and in the weeks ahead to gratefully recall all God has freely given to us by their presence, and then to resolve to give back without cost what we have received from them by our telling the world about Jesus Christ, the very message that both Father Tom and Father Matt so faithfully shared with us.