First Reading Commentary
“Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of My pasture.” This verse is mostly a reference to false prophets. Jeremiah prophesies that shepherds will come and these shepherds will be righteous and the people will “no longer fear and tremble.” In Jeremiah's mind, he's probably thinking of prophets who are sent by God who will guide and instruct the people wisely.
From a Christian viewpoint, this is a prophecy about the apostles and their successors who are instructed and sent by “a righteous shoot” Who is our Lord Jesus Christ. And sadly, since the Church has had scandals because of a small percentage of shepherds, one has to wonder what is the application of “woe” to those shepherds.
“In his days Judah shall be saved, Israel shall dwell in security.” Again, from Jeremiah's perspective, this “righteous shoot” would be a king who would govern his people fairly and Israel would be freed from the bonds of false prophets who manipulated the people of Israel for their own personal gain.
From a Christian perspective, this is a prophecy about Jesus Christ Who would free not only Judah and Israel, but the whole world from the bonds of evil and sin. Because of the Savior's deeds, His people “shall dwell in security” for all eternity in the Kingdom of heaven.
Second Reading Commentary
Saint Paul, a Jew, whose mission was to preach the Good News to the Gentiles is encouraging the Ephesians and us by explaining that anything which divided us as a people, no longer exists because Jesus Christ has made us “one and broke down the dividing wall” so that all might be reconciled with God.
Jesus “is our peace,” and we, through His Sacrifice on the Cross, have been made one in the Body of Christ. As members of that one mystical Body, we ideally share in each other’s joys and feel the pains of each other’s sorrows and sufferings. We work together, using our God given gifts to build up the Body of Christ, and like the Head, Who is Jesus, we are now able to address God as “Father.”
In last Sunday's Gospel, Jesus sent the apostles out to preach the Good News; and He gave them the authority to cast out demons and heal the sick. This week's Gospel begins with the apostles returning from that mission to report to Jesus “all they had done and taught.”
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” Jesus knows that they are tired and is offering them rest which is very consistent with what God said way back in Genesis when He ordained rest from labors. Perhaps we can learn something from this. When our day is finished, and we are tired, it would seem that Jesus is recommending that we “go to a deserted place,” which could be anywhere in our homes where we can be alone and rest with Jesus and tell Him about our day. Certainly Jesus already knows about our day but for us to grow in our relationship with Him, we need to tell Him. Of course, when raising a family, alone time can be difficult to manufacture; thus, our alone time could mean alone in our thoughts which is usually when we go to bed, before falling asleep.
“People were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. They were like sheep without a shepherd.” These verses are an example of a cross that most, if not all of us, have to bear. How often is our help needed at a most inconvenient time? How often do we have to stop what we're doing because something else requires our attention? How often are we, like the apostles, expecting that moment of rest but circumstances of life cut it short? Anytime someone needs our help, we become the shepherd. This could be anything from having to stay a little longer at the workplace, to cleaning up the milk that our child spilled. Every day we perform tasks that are unexpected. When our help is needed and we become the shepherds, are we, like Jesus, “moved with pity” for the sheep in need; or are we angry because of the inconvenience?