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Sunday:       Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Date:         July 19, 2015
Year:         B
The readings: [Jer. 23:1-6; Ephes. 2:13-18; Mk. 6:30-34]
The message:  Called to be united as one in Christ.
Prepared by:  Catholic Doors Ministry
Total words:  1746


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** The readings follow the sermon.

Greetings my brothers and sisters in the Name of our Lord Jesus. As many of you must recall, year 2000 was set aside to commemorate the Most Holy Trinity. During that year, we strived to perceive the united but distinctive roles of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit in all things. Today's readings serve as a reminder of our spiritual efforts three years ago. They echo the united but distinctive roles of the three Divine Presences of the Holy Trinity.

In the days of the prophet Jeremiah, disappointed with the priestly branch of the Levites who were called to be good shepherds, God the Father promised, "I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold." [Jer. 23:3] And as our living faith teaches us, by the power of the Holy Spirit, the good Shepherd, our Lord Jesus Christ, came and laid down His life for the sheep. [Jn. 10:11]

Why did Jesus lay down His life? He laid down His life to reclaim His Kingdom that Satan had captured [Rev. 12:10-1] through the sinful disobedience of our first parents in the Garden of Eden. He laid down His life as an act of Divine love and mercy to reunite as one the children of God who obey His word. [1 Jn. 2:5] He laid down His life so we may become one as the Father and the Son are one. [Jn. 11:17]

During today's First Reading, we heard the promise of God the Father to gather the remnant of His flock out of all the lands and to raise shepherds over them to shepherd them. Through the ministry of the common priesthood in the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, we have seen the fulfillment of this Divine prophecy.

Our loving and merciful heavenly Father also promised that through the genealogy of king David, He would raise a righteous Branch, He who would reign as King and deal wisely, and he would execute justice and righteousness in the land. Through Him who will be called our righteousness, the people from every nation would qualify to be saved. This has been fulfilled through the Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ who is the righteous One, [1 Jn. 2:1] He through who we receive our righteousness. [Rom. 4:25]

Once, before our Baptism, we were far off. Born in sin, we were called to experience physical and spiritual death. Now, through our Lord Jesus Christ, we have been brought near. Through faith in Jesus and the Sacrament of Baptism, we have received the living hope of our salvation. For Jesus is the promise of our blessed hope... eternal joy and peace. Through the spiritual Kingdom that He has instituted on earth, Jesus has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between nations, races and cultures. For the wisdom of God from above is without partiality. [Jas. 3:17] Christ came to proclaim peace to all. Through Him, all of us have access in one Spirit to the Father.

To reconcile all to God in one body through the cross, our Lord Jesus removed the obstacle that created hostilities by abolishing the law with all its commandments and ordinances. There no longer is a need for animal sacrifices to atone for sins. For we were justified through Jesus, [Rom. 5:9] the perfect sacrifice, He atoning once for the sins of all. [Rom. 4:24; 2 Cor. 5:21]

During today's Gospel Reading, [Mk. 6:30-34] we heard that the apostles of Jesus had returned from their mission. They gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. Here, we see accountability, where the apostles account to Jesus who is the head of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church that He has instituted on earth.

When I reflect upon this, I think of Pope John-Paul II who completed this year his 100 th worldwide trip and all the bishops from throughout the world who also travel tremendously in order to reach their flocks. As the apostles were accountable to Jesus, all the bishops of the world come and go on a regular basis, accounting to the Pontiff on all matters related to the christian faith in their dioceses.

When I heard during today's reading that the apostles had no leisure time, not even a moment to eat because many were coming and going, I said to myself, 'Things have not changed!' Even today, the agenda of the Pope and the bishops is very demanding. With all their travelling, political meetings, the celebration of the Holy Mass, the visiting the faithful, the administration of the Sacrament of Confirmation, I wonder where they get their time to write their sermons, never mind the time to eat.

Being human like everyone else, they also need time to themselves. During today's Gospel reading, we heard how Jesus and the apostles tried to sneak away to a deserted place to have time by themselves. As you all heard, being popular as they were, they never escaped the crowd. People came from all over. Being filled with compassion for them who were like sheep without a Shepherd, Jesus began to teach them many things. What love He had for the people!

Even today, we see the love of Jesus for the people in the words and actions of Pope John-Paul II. In the spirit of ecumenimsm, He goes out of his way to united all faith as one in Christ. It is very commendable. Truly, our Pontiff, the representative of Christ on earth, the visible head of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church, continues in the footsteps of Jesus.

My brothers and sisters, as a spiritual tool to strengthen your knowledge of the Catholic faith, I would like to take a few moments to point out a few Bible passages that affirm that Christ appointed St. Peter the apostle and his successors after him as the head of the Catholic Church.

First of all, Jesus gave the apostle the name 'Peter' which means 'rock.' Jesus also declared, that upon him as the 'rock,' He would build His Church. [Mt. 16:18]

Second, Jesus gave to Peter something that He did not give to the other apostles. He gave him the "keys to the kingdom of heaven.' [Mt. 16:19] The power of the key is the symbol of supreme power and authority according to the prophet Isaiah. "I will place on his shoulder the key of the house of David; he shall open, and no one shall shut; he shall shut, and no one shall open." [Is. 22:22] On this subject, the Book of Revelation states, "These are the words of the holy one, the true one, who has the key of David, who opens and no one will shut, who shuts and no one opens." [Rev. 3:7] Combining these passages, it is obvious that Jesus is the holy one who received the key of David to the eternal kingdom and that He intended on giving them to Peter and his successors.

Third, after His resurrection, Jesus formally commissioned Peter to feed His whole flock when He said, "Feed my lambs. Tend my sheep. Feed my sheep." [Jn. 21:15-7] Earlier, Jesus had said, "So there will be one flock, one shepherd." [Jn. 10:16] Through these words, Jesus appointed and intended Peter to be the one and only chief pastor of his one fold.

Fourth, when Satan demanded to sift the apostles like wheat, Jesus prayed for Peter so his faith may not fail; and he, Peter, once he has turned back, may strengthen his brothers. [Lk. 22:31-2] The prayer of Jesus was specifically for Peter, that his faith should not fail so he may strengthen his brothers.

Fifth, when reviewing the lists of apostles given in the Gospels, the name of Peter is always first. The names of the others vary in order, depending on what list you read. At the same time, Peter was not the first apostle to answer his call because his brother Andrew was called before him. Peter was listed first by the writers of the Gospels because he was recognized as the supreme authority of the Church.

Sixth, in the list of the apostles in the Gospels of Matthew and Luke, Simon is referred to as 'Peter' which means 'rock,' the name that Jesus gave him.

Seventh, the final authority of St. Peter as the head of the Church is seen in the replacement of Judas [Acts 1] and at the Council at Jerusalem. [Acts 15:7]

Eight, since the early days of christianity, the writers and holy fathers of every age always affirmed it as a truth revealed by God that Jesus appointed St. Peter as the prince of the apostles and the visible head of His Church.

Ninth, without any doubt, all the successors of St. Peter, beginning with the first one after him, have claimed the supreme authority as the head of the Church that was instituted by Christ on earth. As such, they have all exercised their authority throughout the history of the Church since its beginning.

These truths that have guided the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church throughout its history affirm that by our obedience and submission to the head of the Church, we are called to be united as one in Christ. Our loyalty to Pope John-Paul II echoes our loyalty to Jesus Christ. Our disobedience to the teachings of Pope John-Paul II echoes our disobedience to Jesus Christ. No one can serve two masters. He will love one and hate the other. [Mt. 6:24]

My brothers and sisters in Christ, this week, as we reflect on today's message from the Word of God, let us ask ourselves if we are loyal to the head of the Catholic Church. Are our thoughts, words and actions in harmony with the call of Christ for us to be one as Jesus and the Father are one? If some of us fall short of that call, let us repent of our human failure and embrace a spiritual mind so we may shine as a light in the world as we are meant to shine.

May the grace and love of Jesus be with each and everyone of you this week.

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The readings...

[The readings were taken from the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible (C) 1989 Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Church of Christ in the United States of America.]

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First Reading...

"Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!"' says the Lord. "Therefore," thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, concerning the shepherds who shepherd my people: It is you who have scattered my flock, and have driven them away, and you have not attended to them."

"So I will attend to you for your evil doings," says the Lord. "Then, I myself will gather the remnant of my flock out of all the lands where I have driven them, and I will bring them back to their fold, and they shall be fruitful and mulstiply. I will raise up shepherds over them who will shepherd them, and they shall not fear any longer, or be dismayed, nor shall any be missing," says the Lord.

"The days are surely coming," says the Lord, "when I will raise up for David a righteous Branch, and he shall reign as king and deal wisely, and shall execute justice and righteousness in the land. In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. And this is the name by which he will be called: "The Lord is our righteousness." [Jer. 23:1-6]

* * * * * * * * * *

Second Reading...

"Brothers and sisers: Now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. For he is our peace; in his flesh he has made both Jews and Gentiles into one and has broken down the dividing wall, that is, the hostility between us.

He has abolished the law with its commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, thus making peace, and might reconcile both groups to God in one body through the Cross, thus putting to death that hostility through it.

So Christ Jesus came and proclaimed peace to you who were far off and peace to those who were near; for through him both of us have access in one Spirit to the Father." [Eph. 2:13-8]

* * * * * * * * * *

Gospel Reading...

"The apostles returned from their mission. They gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.

He said to them, 'Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while." For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves.

Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As Jesus went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things." [Mk. 6:30-4]

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