Saturday, February 03, 2007

Saturday in the 4th Week of Ordinary Time (I)
The Shepherd’s Rest

Readings: Hebrews 13:15-17, 20-21; Psalms 23:1-3a, 3b-4, 5, 6; Mark 6:30-34

I pray that the God of peace, who brought the Lord Jesus back from the dead to become the great Shepherd of the sheep… may make you ready to do his will in any kind of good action…

We have noted previously how many people come to religion seeking peace in the midst of inner turmoil, consolation in the midst of desolation, rest in the midst of stressful labour. Our readings today offer us an occasion to reflect a little more deeply on the nature of this rest. For, quite clearly, what the great Shepherd offers his sheep is not quite the rest of total inactivity and inert passivity.

We notice, for example, how the letter to the Hebrews ends with a prayer for action in accordance with God’s will. And in the gospel, we notice how busy Jesus and his disciples are. Even their prudent plans to go to some lonely place to rest for a while are interrupted by the large crowd requiring their ministry. Indeed, those who respond generously to the great Shepherd’s invitation to enter into his service often find their lives just as busy, if not busier, than before.

And yet, the psalmist sings of the fresh and green pastures where the Shepherd gives me repose. What is the nature of these pastures and this repose? We’ve probably experienced it ourselves. Rather than inactivity and passivity, the rest that the Shepherd affords has to do with relationship. It has to do with living one’s life no longer only for self but for others. It has to do with finding, in our ongoing companionship with the great Shepherd, the motivation and the energy that we need to serve those entrusted to our care. Much like the apostles in today’s gospel, those who enjoy the Shepherd’s rest are those who, even in the midst of their daily activities, seek somehow to rejoin him, to tell him all about what they have been doing -- all their triumphs and their struggles for his flock -- and to hear him invite them to come with him and rest for a while. For even if that rest is interrupted, it is still time spent in the company of the One who gives us strength. And that makes all the difference…

How is our Shepherd leading us to green pastures today?

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