When a project is completed usually the taskforce will sit down and evaluate the results and drawbacks of their execution. Jesus also did the same with his team of disciples. The disciples had returned from their missionary journey. With the authority and power of Jesus they cast out demons, healed the sick and proclaimed the good news. They gave a detailed description to Jesus of all that they did. They have been very successful in their mission but Jesus realized that their ministry was very demanding and the disciples were in need of rest. So he took them to a deserted place to be themselves. They had worked hard and they deserved total rest to re-energize themselves. Jesus certainly felt that they needed to be separated for a while to reflect on what they were really doing and where their ‘power’ really came from. He was so protective and caring.
Jesus and the disciples were retreating from the people on a boat and headed to a place where they might be alone. But when they neared the shore, they discovered that a great crowd had anticipated where they were headed, and had arrived at their destination before they did. But instead of turning the boat around and heading off to another place of retreat, Mark tells us that when Jesus saw the crowd, he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. Jesus saw the throngs of people and though he was tired, he had compassion for them. Jesus saw that they needed a shepherd and needed a guide. Jesus saw the human condition all around him. He saw sickness, death, poverty, oppression, injustice, broken relationships and struggles of the people. He was not indifferent to their problems and he did not blame anyone for their situation, instead he had compassion and he eased their sufferings by healing the sick, comforting the grieving, and sharing God’s love with them.
We all love the image of God as a shepherd. King David who composed the psalm “the Lord is my shepherd” (Psalm 23) clearly narrates the love and care of the shepherd. This image of the shepherd which appears several times in the New Testament shows us the care and concern of God in Jesus. A shepherd generally walked ahead of the sheep because he had to make sure the safety of the sheep. The sheep followed him, because they recognized his voice, and they trusted him. He always carried his staff with him as it served as an essential tool of the shepherd. With its crook or curved head he caught the sheep by the neck or leg and directed it to the right path so that it will not go away from the flock and in its upturned nose he hung the lantern at night. With the support of the staff the shepherd walked miles and miles tending his flock. The staff also served as a protective weapon to chase the wolves and hyenas who tried to kill the sheep. The shepherd took his sheep to the fresh and green pastures always; near cool refreshing waters he led them to quench their thirst and rest. David sings that the mercy and goodness of the Lord will never end and he wished to experience it all the days of his life and desired to dwell with Him always.
We find among the sheep today, very many people who are searching for truth, people hungering for instruction and looking for direction. Parents who are troubled by the deviant behaviors of their children, people who are unemployed, drug addicts, alcoholics, women facing pregnancy alone; elderly people who are homebound, people who are angry and confused because they have lost confidence in their leaders, whether political or religious. There are people who are looking for answers and for meaning. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They all need ideal shepherds filled with the spirit of Christ the “Good Shepherd.”
“Our Lord loves with a most tender love those who are so happy to abandon themselves wholly to His Fatherly care, letting themselves be governed by His divine providence, without any idle speculations as to whether the working of his providence will be useful to them to their profit, or painful to their loss, and this because they are well assured that nothing can be sent, nothing permitted by this paternal and most loving Heart, which will not be a source of good and profit to them.” St. Francis de Sales