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16th SUNDAY - July 21, 2024

Jeremiah 23: 1-6; Psalm 23;
Ephesians 2: 13-18; Mark 6: 30-34

by Jude Siciliano, OP



Dear Preachers:




As you know, each week I list the names of 3 death row inmates and suggest our readers drop them a note. I realize we may not wish to send our addresses to people we don’t know in prison. What about asking your local parish to receive any responses you might get, using the parish office as a return address? Or, just sign your first name with no return address. At least the inmate will know they are not forgotten and are prayed for by someone on the outside.

Thank you.

The image of the shepherd permeates our Scriptures today. The Psalm response to our first reading sums it up: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.” We are reminded that God is not asleep or a distant God. Note the verbs the psalmist uses to describe God’s activities on behalf of the sheep. God nourishes, nurtures and guides us to a restful place. There God encourages, empowers, takes away fear and anoints us with oil to commission and strengthen us to go forth on God’s behalf. Just as Jesus did, prior to day’s gospel passage, when he sent his disciples to preach and heal (6:7-13.)

The rulers of ancient Israel, their kings, were also to be the shepherds of the people. They were expected to reflect God, Israel’s Shepherd. Jeremiah takes Israel’s recent kings to task for neglecting their responsibilities to their flock, the people of Judah. The corruption of the kings had caused the destruction of Jerusalem and the people’s enslavement in Babylon was seen as punishment.

Jeremiah reminds the people that God has not forgotten them and will take them back. When people make a mess of their lives, they interpret the resulting dire consequences of their bad choices as punishment from God. They feel disconnected from their past and experience a sense of homelessness – displacement – like the Israelites in Babylonian captivity. They even feel shame when they think of God and so, may hesitate asking for forgiveness.

Those who experience one form of exile or another, take Jeremiah to heart – whatever we may think of ourselves and the shame we feel for what we have done, or failed to do. If we were God, we reason, we would give up on us and our half-hearted attempts to change. But we are not God and Jeremiah reminds us that our shepherding God has come out looking for us to guide us home. “I myself will gather the remnant of the flock from all the lands to which I have driven them and bring them back to their meadow.

In addition, once God has restored us to good standing, God will stay with us and help us keep from slipping back into old habits and destructive modes of behavior, “I will appoint shepherds for them who will shepherd them.” God will not leave us wandering and untended in any deserted place we may find ourselves. Today’s gospel shows that Jeremiah’s promise of God’s care for us has taken flesh in Jesus, our shepherd.

Why would people leave their towns and search out Jesus in a deserted place? Why do people, even now, after a hectic day of work, commuting and food preparation, leave their homes to go to their parish for a class on the Scriptures, the Pope’s latest encyclical, an RCIA session, etc? We may not be going to a literal “deserted place,” but we have a lot in common with the vast crowd of today’s gospel: we too are hungry and we want to learn more about Jesus. As he did with the crowds so he draws us to himself to teach us. What we learn isn’t just more information about him. The reason we go out of our way is to learn Jesus, whom we meet in the words and actions of his modern apostles, ordinary Christians like us, commissioned to speak and act in his name.

A word on titles. In other places in Mark’s gospel those who follow Jesus are called “disciples.” But today their title is “apostle.” This is the only time this title is attributed to them in Mark. So, what’s special in today’s account? Well, they have returned from the mission Jesus gave them. Previously Jesus gave them authority and sent them out two by two (6:7-13) to preach and heal. While we follow Jesus and listen to his teachings we are disciples. But then he assigns us to go forth and preach and heal – then we also bear the title “apostle.”

Jesus takes the returning apostles to a “deserted place.” The biblical reader knows the significance of a “deserted place.” We recall that, after God delivered the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery, God led them out to the desert and tended them with food and drink. And more! In the desert God revealed God’s self to the people and made a lasting covenant with them. Jesus is doing what God did for the people in the desert. He teaches them “many things.” These “many things” does not imply that Jesus spoke a long boring sermon. Instead, he taught as he always taught, the “many things” about God’s love and care for us. Finally, a shepherd who will teach and guide the people in God’s ways!

We are also called to teach as: parents, professional teachers, friends, catechists and through good example. We have many opportunities to share our knowledge of God with those who find themselves in their own “deserted places” of depression, indecision, sadness, faithlessness, poverty, unemployment, loss of a loved one, etc. Many, who find themselves in deserted places, look to us for the concern and care Jesus had for the crowd who were “like sheep without a shepherd.” On our own we cannot address their needs. But like those first apostles, we are not on our own, we have been commissioned with the authority and power given to us through Jesus’s Spirit. We received that Spirit at our baptism and are reminded today that we are sent on mission to be the Lord’s apostles.


Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:




To be with God is really to be involved with some enormous,
overwhelming desire and joy and power which you cannot control,
which controls you. God is a means of liberation and not a
a means to control others.

James Baldwin,
Nobody Knows My Name





“The Lord our justice.”

Jeremiah 23:6

In this week’s readings, the major themes form an interesting combination: division, rest, and reconciled unity under the banner of justice. I got to thinking about all the things that divide us today from our politics to our religious beliefs. Even our opinions of the poor divide us. Some of us see the poor as ourselves but without resources, others of us see those without resources as less than ourselves.

How do we heal the divisions we face every day? In the early centuries of the Christian era, seekers desiring wisdom and a deeper spiritual life sought direction from monks, known as the desert mothers and fathers, saying, “Amma (mother) or Abba (father), give me a word.” These wise souls might respond with words such as, “What God commands is perfect love.” Based on that statement, what do you think is God’s viewpoint about our divisions and how to heal them? After resting in the words that we are given, we return to the every day. Hopefully, we will have a new way of looking at our quandary, a new vision of the world through God’s eyes. All of our greatest saints and mystics emerged from their sojourn in the “desert” with the realization of the oneness and unity of creation formed by a love that is totally selfless and just.

Where can we find our wisdom figures, our “abbas” and “ammas,” today, those who seek to help end divisions?  In the Benedictine spirit, check out: where you can hear the words of a modern day “amma” in  the person of  Sr. Joan Chittister. OR, in the Dominican tradition, you can read the wisdom words of “abba” Fr. Jude Siciliano in his First Impressions at: Within our Cathedral parish, we have a prayer group that reflects on the words of Trappist monk, Thomas Merton; another prayer group uses the writings of Jesuit Fr. Patrick Saint-Jean; and a traditional Lectio Divina group that ponders the Sunday gospels. 

A bit of wisdom nourishment for Catholics involved in the church work of justice/service comes from Dominican Fr. Carlos Aspiroz Costa, who states, in a no longer published Dominican Echoes, that the “hands are a projection of what is in our heart.” This wisdom is “an invitation to use heart and hands. . to embrace and to lift up, to bless and to heal, to feed and to shelter. . it is love of God expressed in love of neighbor.”

This is the banner of the Lord our justice.

Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS, Director,
Office of Human Life, Dignity, and Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC




Mini reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. “Faith Book” is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.



God will not leave us wandering and untended in any deserted place we may find ourselves. Today’s gospel will show that Jeremiah’s promise of God’s care for us has taken flesh in Jesus, our shepherd.


So we ask ourselves:

  • Is there a “deserted place” in your life where you are experiencing the limits of endurance and the testing of your faith?

  • To what pasture is Jesus urging you to go for nourishment and strength?



“One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out.”
---Pope Francis

Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I am posting in this space several inmates’ names and locations. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know that: we have not forgotten them; are praying for them and their families; or, whatever personal encouragement you might like to give them. If the inmate responds, you might consider becoming pen pals.


Please write to:

  • Eddie Robinson #0347839 (On death row since 5/19/1992)

  • Nathan Bowie #0039561 (2/5/1993)

  • William Bowie #0039569 (2/5/1993)


----Central Prison, P.O. 247 Phoenix, MD 21131


Please note: Central Prison is in Raleigh, NC., but for security purposes, mail to inmates is processed through a clearing house at the above address in Maryland.

For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:

On this page you can sign “The National Catholic Pledge to End the Death Penalty.” Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:




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