Exegesis

  

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Select Exegesis
July, 22 2018

16th Sunday of Ordinary Time (B)

Dr. Terrance Callan

Jer 23:1-6 Eph 2:13-18 ark 6:30-34

        The readings for this Sunday present Jesus as a good shepherd whose flock includes both Jews and Gentiles.

     In the reading from the book of the prophet Jeremiah the Lord, through Jeremiah, pronounces woe upon the shepherds of Israel, i. e., the leaders of Israel, particularly the king. The Lord says to them, “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.” And the Lord promises to gather his flock back together and to appoint shepherds for them who will take good care of them. In particular the Lord says: “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.”

        The reading from the gospel of Mark portrays Jesus as the fulfillment of this promise. After the apostles returned from the mission on which Jesus had sent them, Jesus wanted to take them aside so they could rest. “People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat.” But when Jesus and the apostles went by boat to a deserted place, the people ran to that place ahead of them and were waiting for them when they arrived. When Jesus 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.” And afterwards Jesus fed them with five loaves and two fish. Next Sunday we will read the version of this story found in the gospel of John.

        The reading from the letter to the Ephesians explains that Jesus is the shepherd of both Jews and Gentiles. Quoting Isaiah 57: 19 the reading says that Jesus “preached peace to you who were far off, and peace to those who were near.” Those who were near are the Jews; those who were far off are the Gentiles. The Jews are the people of God; before the coming of Jesus the Gentiles were “strangers to the covenants of promise, without hope and without God in the world” (Ephesians 2:12). But Jesus “made both one and broke down the dividing wall of enmity.”

        Jesus has done this by uniting Jew and Gentile in the one body of Christ. By forming what had been two separate groups into one body, he removes what had kept them apart, i.e., “the law with its commandments and legal claims.” In this way he makes peace between the two groups; the enmity between them was put to death when Jesus died on the cross and united Jews and Gentiles with him in his death and resurrection. Through Jesus both Jew and Gentile share one Holy Spirit and so have access to the Father.

        This reading reminds us of two things we easily forget as 21st century Gentile Christians. The first is that we Gentiles are late additions to God’s flock. God had called Israel to be his people centuries before we were included. The second is that our inclusion in the flock should make peace between Gentile and Jew, not increase hostility, as has so often happened in the past.

Terrance Callan

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