Heb 13:15-17, 20-21; Ps 23:1-6; Mk 6:30-34: Most of the early saints were martyrs. They walked through the dark valley of Pagan Rome’s persecution. The Pagans, wealthy and powerful, were afraid of those who followed the Lord Jesus. These men and women were afraid that the growing Christian religion would one day overtake their gods and their nation. Such a victory for the Good Shepherd would challenge their pet immoralities and favorite superstitions. Even like the powerful and popular of our own day, these pagans would prefer to leave well enough alone. Their constant cry was, “if it ain’t broke then don’t try to fix it!” They never learn how to walk with the Lord into verdant pastures, near the restful waters. They never learned how to pray, how to find refreshment for their souls. We too must be lead by the Good Shepherd who will guide our through life, through the dark valley of persecution and temptation. The Cross of Christ became the rod and staff that give us courage. We will feasted at the banquet table of the Eucharist, which was set up in the sight of all our foes. We are anointed with oil for strength and the very thought of suffering with our Lord Jesus Christ brings us such joy that our cup overflows. The LORD sees our hearts and knows our desires. With many examples of trust and courage in the early church, we learn how to pray, and we learn how to dwell in the house of the LORD for years and for ages unending.
The Letter to the Hebrews ends with an exhortation and a prayer. We, who believe and find inspiration for lives of faith in this ancient letter, are summoned to a life of sacrifice. First, we are to offer the continual sacrifice of praise to God –confessing his grace and glory in the Lord Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest. Secondly, we are to offer the daily sacrifices of charity –by confessing our gratitude to the Father through doing good and sharing what we have. Finally, we are to offer the pleasing sacrifice of obedience –we are to trust that our leaders in the faith have surrendered to the movement of the Holy Spirit. Only this kind of sacrificial life-style will bring us into union with the God of peace, who raised up from the dead the Great Shepherd of the sheep through the Blood of the new and everlasting covenant. This is the power of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ, and it is through, with, and in Him that we live and move and have our being. Alleluia!
After their first missionary journey the Apostles are invited by the Master to come away by themselves to a deserted place and rest a while. This retreat was a compassionate response to the worn-out Twelve. They needed to be away from a great number of needy people who hungered and thirsted for the wisdom of the LORD. However, the people who saw them go away for a break followed in great numbers arriving before them. When the Lord Jesus saw the broken hearted before him, he could not ignore their pain for it was a hunger much greater than the hunger of the Apostles who had no opportunity to eat or drink. The Lord Jesus had for them exactly what they needed, some divine nourishment; every word that comes from the mouth of the LORD. He could not ignore their spiritual starvation for they were like sheep without a shepherd. He taught them many things. The Lord Jesus spent himself in nourishing the spiritual hunger of the crowds before taking time with his Apostles. They knew him and his ways among them. They knew his compassionate heart and trusted in his merciful love. In every generation those who give witness, do so boldly and with great compassion. The Lord Jesus, models the compassion of his Father, and invites us to pour ourselves out in love for the crowd.