Sunday Scripture Readings

SIXTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME JULY 20 Jeremiah 23:1-6; Psalm 23; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34 OUR GOOD NEWS: We are challenged where we misuse authority and empowered in to faithful fidelity. In today’s first reading, the prophet Jeremiah passed judgment ("woe!") upon rulers of his Chosen People. Kings of the Israelite nation are found guilty and condemned for gross malfeasance. More than negligent and inefficient, these leaders deliberately "mislead." The shepherd’s basic responsibility is keeping his sheep together for safety and protection. But these evil rulers willfully "scattered" the flock, exposing it to destruction by wild beasts, starvation and exposure. God as owner. God now intervened to "punish (their) evil deeds." More importantly, he personally took charge, replacing their incompetence with his personal care. As punishment for national infidelity toward their covenanted Lord, Judah had become vassal to pagan nations and their gods, some of her people driven into exile. Surprisingly, hope for the future lay with these latter. God promised to round up his scattered flock and lead them back, as earlier he took their ancestors from Egyptian slavery and brought them into the Promised Land. Once having reconstituted the nation, God determined to choose a leadership that would fulfill their responsibilities. Specifically, he planned to "anoint" (crown) a descendant-"shoot" of David who would prove the ideal, "righteous" ruler. Three qualities distinguish this Messianic king: (1) he will reign and prosper as a sovereign should, (2) possess requisite wisdom, and (3) love "justice and righteousness" — that is, perform deeds that faithfully uphold the covenant agreement binding God and his people. His throne name perfectly catches the spirit of the coming new age, summarizing the meaning, purpose and style of his reign. God alone will be the norm by which his Kingdom exists and functions: "the Lord our (victorious, legitimate, true) justice." This prophetic denunciation of faithless servants in the Old Testament admits of application to our own time. All of us who exercise responsibility in the Church, but also in family life and society, are called to imitate God’s diligent, effective caring. This means bringing together rather than polarizing, leading rather than dominating, selflessly concern for subjects rather than personal advantage. In the second reading, Paul celebrated the specular fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (first reading) of a future shepherd who would gather the dispersed and scattered into one people of God. Through Jesus, God has brought together into fellowship one flock — membership in the Christian community — both Jews "who were near" and godless "gentiles once far off," our ancestors who lived beyond the pale of divine rule and special concern. As though with an ancient throne name, Christ is acclaimed "our peace" in the Hebrew sense of one who "makes whole." He functions as cause as well as center, uniting mutually opposed factions with one another and with God. The human race can only be truly united through Jesus, whose "peace" is radically incompatible with everything that polarizes.

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