MANIFESTATION OF THE LORD AS THE GOOD SHEPHERD WHO LAYS DOWN HIS LIFE FOR HIS SHEEP

January 8, 2015 at 8:53 am Leave a comment

SCRIPTURE READINGS: 1 Jn 4:7-10; Mk 6:34-44
http://www.universalis.com/20150106/mass.htm 

We are celebrating the liturgy in the context of the feast of the Epiphany.  On the second day after Epiphany, the liturgy reveals to us another manifestation of the Lord.  Jesus is revealed as the Good Shepherd who came to lay down His life for His sheep. The gospel describes Jesus as the shepherd who came to look for His lost sheep. He is just the Shepherd foretold by Ezekiel when God condemned the bad shepherds.  Jesus is the shepherd sent by God after His own heart.  He manifests the love and mercy of God for us.  Hence, St Mark wrote, “As Jesus stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.”

But this shepherd is not simply contented to give us things or even heal us of our infirmities; He came to give us nothing less than Himself.  It is important to note that when “it was getting very late, and his disciples came up to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place and it is getting very late, so send them away, and they can go to the farms and villages round about, to buy themselves something to eat.’ He replied, ‘Give them something to eat yourselves.’” Yes, Jesus the Good Shepherd never shirked His responsibilities.  He wanted the disciples to learn from Him.  Love requires that we give something of ourselves, not just gifts that are but external signs of our interior giving.  What is even more important is to give our time, our love and ourselves to others.

Indeed, the multiplication of loaves is but an anticipation of the passion, death and resurrection of Jesus, for the miracle of the loaves anticipates Jesus’ giving of His life and Himself to us in the Eucharist.  This explains why the Eucharist is contemplated upon in the fifth luminous mystery of the Rosary.  The Eucharist is yet another revelation of Jesus as Lord and Saviour.  The Eucharist, which is a celebration of the Paschal Mystery of Christ, His passion, death and resurrection, sums up Christ who is the inexhaustible gift of God.  In multiplying the loaves, Jesus revealed His divine power.  In the Eucharist, He continues to give Himself to us especially after His death and resurrection.  He bequeaths the Eucharist to His Church so that we will never bereave of His presence.   In the Eucharist, Jesus becomes bread for us to eat.  In other words, the multiplication of the loaves, which is an anticipation of Jesus’ desire to give Himself to us in the Eucharist upon His death and resurrection, truly manifests the love of God in Jesus.

We too must now, like Jesus, become bread for others.  St John in the first reading makes it clear that those who love and know God must love his neighbours.  True love of God is not measured simply in terms of religious piety or knowledge but in love of neigbour.  That is why he wrote, “everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God. Anyone who fails to love can never have known God, because God is love.” Yet the fact remains that many of us fail in the love of God and neighbour.  We find ourselves inadequate in love because of human limitations and our human selfishness.  Much as we desire to give ourselves completely to our neighbours, we inevitably fall short in giving.  The disciples said to Jesus when He told them to give the crowd something to eat themselves, “Are we to go and spend two hundred denarii on bread for them to eat?”  Indeed, we feel helpless and inadequate when asked to give more of ourselves.

Thus, it is important to take note that John began by saying, “My dear people, let us love one another since love comes from God.”  This implies that we cannot love each other unless we receive the love of God first.  Without a prior experience of God’s love, there is no question of our ability to love our neighbours after the heart of God.  Without the love of God, we cannot love.  Indeed, without the power of love, how can there be sharing among the people?

So where is this love of God to be found? Precisely, in Jesus!  John said, “God’s love for us was revealed when God sent into the world his only Son so that we could have life through him; this is the love I mean: not our love for God, but God’s love for us when he sent his Son to be the sacrifice that takes our sins away.”  Hence, when we celebrate the feast of Epiphany, we are celebrating the manifestation of God’s love for us in Jesus.  It must be Jesus’ love for the people and the way He shared the five loaves and two fish that opened the hearts and minds of the people to share with each other whatever they had.  In sharing, all had more than sufficient.

For us, Christmas and Epiphany is not an event that is past.  Indeed, for us, Catholics, every time we celebrate the Eucharist, Jesus becomes present to us and become bread for us.  In receiving Jesus into our lives, we receive the strength to become bread for the world. Hence, the Church invites us to continue to contemplate on the manifestation of the Lord in our lives, especially in the Eucharist and when we reach out to others in love and mercy.  Only when we have seen the Lord in the Eucharist, can we then see God in our fellowmen whom Jesus has identified with.  For in His compassion for them, Jesus is saying to us the same thing as He said to His disciples, “Give them something to eat yourselves.”  Yes, we must give Jesus to them and give ourselves to them in love and service.

If we find ourselves lacking in the capacity to love, let us give whatever little we can.  The Lord accepts our imperfections and inadequacies.  If we turn to Him in prayer and self-surrender, He will work wonders in our lives and give us that grace, the capacity to do more than we can imagine or think of.  Like the disciples, let us not rely on our own strength and capacity.  We must turn to the Lord who will transform our meager efforts into something marvelous.  Like the Lord, we must offer what we have to the Father in thanksgiving and He will multiply the resources we have.   Perhaps the greatest giving that we are called to give is the act of faith and trust in God.  Will we surrender ourselves to Him and allow Him to show His love for us by not obstructing His desire to work miracles in our lives?

WRITTEN BY THE MOST REV WILLIAM GOH
ARCHBISHOP OF SINGAPORE

Retrieved from http://www.csctr.net/reflections/#sthash.USnKfaEK.dpbs

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Entry filed under: Catechesis.

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