Many funerals have the twenty third psalm as the responsorial psalm. It gives comfort to those who are grieving and are filled with sorrow. There is a sense that in the loss there is a hope of life eternal. That God will provide and accept those who have died but will also accept those of us who believe and are still here on earth. Through the words of this psalm, God offers compassion and comfort. This psalm also teaches us the grace to administer compassion and comfort to one another.
Jeremiah has harsh words for the religious leaders of his day. These religious leaders have done so badly that God now says He will come to shepherd His people, casting out these false shepherds who feed themselves on God’s sheep, not offering any aide or help to alleviate their burdens. Why have they failed? Earlier in the book of Jeremiah we learn that the religious leaders have become so infatuated with the grandeur and the beauty of the temple of the Lord. And because they are religious leaders, they think themselves greater than just the common people. They set themselves apart and grant themselves many costly items. All of this by taxing the people heavily. Meanwhile the orphans and the widows are starving and are not being cared for. The religious leaders have no compassion for the common person.
This connects with the gospel in a special way today. The disciples were sent out by Jesus to cast demons, heal the sick, and share the message of forgiveness. They have returned excited and sharing all that has happened. Jesus realizes they need some time to reflect and give thanks for all that has happened. He invites them to come away to quiet place and rest. This is good advice for all of us. When we work hard there should be a time and a place where we can find rest and thank God for all He has given us. But then we are told many people are coming to find Jesus. The disciples and Jesus cannot find a quiet place for rest. It is at this point in the gospel of Mark that Jesus will now begin to share Eucharistic miracles and teach them that He will become their food; His Body and Blood will feed them. Jesus is the good shepherd who lays down His life for the people.
His heart is moved with pity, Jesus has compassion for the people. Even though you may be exhausted or tired, when you have compassion for people, your heart gives you strength to respond. It is like a parent who has worked all day and is exhausted. Yet, they will find the strength to prepare a meal for their children. The second reading encourages us to not count the cost, but to open our hearts to care for one another, to have compassion for the less fortunate, to find the strength to help others even when we are exhausted. We can trust Jesus to feed and nourish us and give us strength to continue.
May the Lord bless you in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen