Sheep without a Shepherd

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture, says the LORD. Therefore, thus says the LORD, the God of Israel, against the shepherds who shepherd my people: You have scattered my sheep and driven them away. You have not cared for them, but I will take care to punish your evil deeds. I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow; there they shall increase and multiply. I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them so that they need no longer fear and tremble; and none shall be missing, says the LORD. Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will raise up a righteous shoot to David; as king he shall reign and govern wisely, he shall do what is just and right in the land. In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security. This is the name they give him: “The LORD our justice.”


Brothers and sisters: In Christ Jesus you who once were far off have become near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace, he who made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity, through his flesh, abolishing the law with its commandments and legal claims, that he might create in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross, putting that enmity to death by it. He came and preached peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near, for through him we both have access in one Spirit to the Father.

MARK 6:30-34

The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place. People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.

One general thrust of the Old Testament books as a whole is that the shepherds given the responsibility to look after God’s sheep, i.e. God’s people, had failed to do a good job. They were looking after their own interests, not the interests of the sheep. As a result, God promised to punish these selfish and irresponsible shepherds, and replace them with good shepherds who would look after His sheep properly. This theme, found in this Sunday’s first reading (Jer 23:1-6), can also be found in other OT books, particularly Eze 34 and Zech 11.

The Christian reading of such OT passages sees the bad and good shepherds as the leaders of Israel and the leaders of the New Israel – the Church – respectively. Similarly, “God’s sheep” in the OT refers to the people of Israel, but it also points forward to the people of the Church. (This method of reading the Scripture is called “typology”. See CCC 128-130, 1094 for explanation and illustration.)

As usual, the goodies promised by God are often more plentiful than we expected. On further examination, God’s promise to send good shepherds actually went one step further: “I myself will gather the remnant of my flock from all the lands,” the Lord said (Jer23:3). As it turned out, not only would God send good shepherds, He Himself would be our Shepherd!

Now we can understand better why in this Sunday’s gospel reading when Jesus saw the vast crowd waiting for him to disembark from his boat, “his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd” (Mk 6:34). This is because Jesus knew he was the only Shepherd – the ultimate Shepherd – who could really look after them properly! With this understanding in mind, Jesus’ good shepherd discourse in John 10 now makes perfect sense: “I am the good shepherd. A good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (Jn 10:11).

Thus in the responsorial psalm we chant together with David, “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall want.”


Edmond Lo

As a Catholic speaker, writer and RCIA Catechist, Edmond is very active in promoting and defending the Catholic faith. He has a MBA, a CPA-CMA, and a MTS (Master of Theological Studies) from U.T., St. Augustine's Seminary. Having worked many years as the CFO of a non-profit organization, he retired at 55 to follow his special vocation of evangelization. The activities he conducts include the CMCC Bible Study Program, the Catechism Revisited Program, the FLL Spiritual Formation Program, Living in the Holy Tradition, RCIA, family groups and retreats, etc. Edmond is a member of the FLL Core Team. He writes Sunday Mass reflections regularly for the weekly FLL NewSpiration. His personal blog:

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