Sunday Homilies


Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time

Matthew 9:36-10:8

Gospel Summary

The heart of Jesus is moved with compassion at the sight of the crowds who are like frightened, helpless sheep abandoned by their shepherd. He asks his disciples to pray that God send more laborers to bring in an abundant harvest. Thereupon, Jesus summons his twelve disciples, gives them power over unclean spirits and the power to cure every illness. He then sends them to the “lost sheep of the house of Israel” to proclaim that the kingdom of heaven is at hand. Jesus’ final admonition is that what has been given to them without cost ought to be given to others without cost.

Life Implications

The New Testament authors use at least ninety images to help us gain some understanding of the mystery of God’s self-giving to human beings. This divine-human communion of life is said to be a kingdom, a marriage, a building, a vine and branches, a living body, a family, a field of wheat and weeds, a people in exile journeying to their homeland.

This Sunday’s passage from Matthew’s gospel uses the image of shepherd and sheep to remind us that at times, like sheep, we are helpless, feel abandoned and lost. The simple image aptly symbolizes the human condition of alienation so graphically described in the first chapters of Genesis and so often experienced in our own lives.

Today we can be grateful for the good news proclaimed in all the gospels: we are not abandoned — the divine and human heart of Jesus is moved with compassion for us. We are not lost sheep paralyzed by fear, afraid to live. Our meditation this week might be on a verse of the twenty-third psalm: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for you are with me; your rod and staff comfort me.”

A further life implication is that Jesus, the good shepherd sent by God, in turn sends his disciples as shepherds to continue his mission of compassion, now not only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, but to the whole world. Perhaps we as Catholics have a tendency to restrict the mission Christ gave to the twelve to those in Holy Orders who offer the sacraments of reconciliation and anointing of the sick. Rather, we are all as disciples of Christ sent out to the world to be good shepherds. In the particular circumstances of our lives we are to actualize Christ’s compassion and forgiveness for those who are lost, and to actualize Christ’s healing power for those who are sick and beset by demons.

Finally, today Jesus also reminds us that we, who have received so much without cost, ought in turn give to others with a generous and cheerful heart.

Campion P. Gavaler, O.S.B.