Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

July 19, 2015

First Reading: Jer 23:1-6; Second Reading: Eph 2:13-18; Gospel: Mk 6:30-34

Someone once said that a leader is a person “Who knows the way, goes the way and shows the way.” I would like to go a little further by quoting Charles R. Swindoll, a famous preacher, who said that the people who make a difference in life have . . . .

Initiative – being a self-starter with contagious energy
Vision - seeing beyond the obvious, claiming new objectives
Unselfishness - releasing the controls and the glory
Teamwork – involving, encouraging, and supporting others
Faithfulness – hanging in there in season and out
Enthusiasm – providing affirmation, excitement to the task
Discipline - modelling great character regardless of the odds
Confidence – representing security, faith, prayer, and determination

In other words, the above mentioned are some of the qualities a leader or a “shepherd” needs to have for efficient leadership in any field in today’s modern world.

I would like to narrate an excerpt from Edgar Schein’s book: Organisational Culture and Leadership, where he speaks of Tom Watson Jr., who was CEO of IBM between 1956 and 1971, a key figure in the information revolution who had repeatedly demonstrated his abilities as a leader. It seems a young executive had made some bad decisions that cost the company several million dollars. He was summoned to Watson’s office, fully expecting to be dismissed. As he entered the office, the young executive said, “I suppose after that set of mistakes you will want to fire me.” Watson was said to have replied, “Not at all, young man, we have just spent a couple of million dollars educating you.” This story provides a strong message of support and a reminder that some of the most powerful lessons we can learn are from our so-called failures or difficult times.

Remember Edison’s famous saying: “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.” Thomas Edison also demonstrated a great response to adversity which compliments Watson Jr’s actions. When his factory was burned down, with much of his life’s work inside, Edison said: “There is great value in disaster. All our mistakes are burned up. Thank God we can start anew.”

A characteristic of leadership is to see things differently. Seeing mistakes as an investment in learning. Seeing that, even in disaster, you can start anew.

Coming to today’s Scripture readings, in the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 23:1-6) we hear God’s disappointment with the shepherds of his flock. At that time in Israel and in the nations around Israel the kings were often called shepherds because they had a duty to look after their people. The kings in Israel had all the more reason to be called shepherds because they were not just monarchs but were expected to act on behalf of God towards his people. Unfortunately only a small number of the kings in Israel were men of faith, and many of the kings, contrary to what was expected of them, did nothing to help the faith of their people. At the end of the first reading we hear God promising that he will raise up a wise and honest king. The kings were all from the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel and Jesus too was from the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the one whom the Father sent as the wise and honest shepherd of his people.

The second reading shows Jesus as the shepherd of all and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, reconciled all of us, from every nation of the world irrespective of any differences, with his Father by offering himself on the cross. Jesus’ desire was always to have a single brotherhood and a happy and peaceful humanity.

In the gospel we reflect on the new shepherd, Jesus Christ; we see the compassion and care of Jesus both for the shepherds and for the sheep. Jesus had sent out his apostles on their mission and they were returning tired and weary with all the work they had done. Seeing their fatigue and knowing that they would be drained out because of the demands made on them, Jesus immediately invited them to a quiet rest, a retreat, an outing by themselves. And the Gospel adds the reason for this invitation, ‘for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.’ These lines give us an insight into Jesus’ compassion, his human understanding for man.. (Source: Barclay Commentary, The International Bible Commentary)

What can we learn from today’s readings and how can we apply it to our life?

  • In many areas of life there is a crisis of authority. The simple fact of holding a leadership position no longer ensures loyalty and unquestioning obedience today. The ideal leader is one who can win respect and generate trust, one who can get things done while respecting people’s dignity and rights, being aware of their feelings and showing concern for their well-being.
  • We are right now in the middle of the holiday period. We all need a break from our routine, whatever that routine might be. Most of the time we go on holidays with our family or friends, or we go away to stay with somebody. Most of us like to be with others when we are away from our routine. In the gospel we find Jesus taking his disciples away together for a period of rest and quiet. We too, must make an effort to spend time ALONE WITH THE ALONE – WITH A VISIT TO THE BLESSED SACRAMENT, to recharge our spiritual batteries and our life too. Jesus gives us sight and insight, strength and wisdom, love and peace, prosperity and harmony in those moments of silence. Often we are like sheep without a shepherd wandering half-lost through life. Jesus is always calling us to himself so that he may lead us to safe pastures. In whatever way we return to him, as believers or as his followers, we all need to come away to some lonely place all by ourselves and rest for a while so as to allow ourselves to be in deeper communion with him. 
  • We are all shepherds in one way or another. If your actions inspire others to dream more, learn more, do more and become more, you are a leader. Shepherds/leaders don’t do different things, they only do things differently. Mk 10:45 says: “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Fr. Gaspar Fernandes, OFM Cap.


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