July 22, 2018 – Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

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My feet are always cold. Realizing that I am unlike most people, I have learned to adapt. For example, I wear socks to bed. In the winter I often wear two pair of socks and wear either Uggs or Bean boots. Once I went on a ski weekend with my youth group. Why I did not bring my Bean boots is beyond me, but I did wear my Uggs. Warm and comfortable as they are, they are NOT waterproof and it took all of two seconds upon our arrival at the lodge for me to step into a giant puddle. My feet and my winter snow wear were soaked. So I did what I assumed anyone in my position would – I sat by the fire with my feet up on the hearth. Slowly my frozen feet began to warm up. In fact, they warmed up so much that the sole of my right boot caught on fire. It wasn’t a burning inferno type fire but rather a slow roasting fire that refused to be put out. This left the sole of my right Uggs charbroiled. The boot itself was unharmed.

Did you know that Uggs boots are made out lambskin? Did you know that there are still shepherds who raise and protect sheep for a living? I did not. I thought that shepherds went the way of the plague a winning Pirates team.

When I picture a shepherd I image the little ceramic guys that come with our Nativity set. It’s actually pretty sweet that Jesus’ first contact with the world would be with the guys that He would later compare Himself with. In fact, that is what He does in today’s readings:
1 Jeremiah 23:1-6
Psalm 23
Mark 6:30-4

We know from just these readings alone that shepherds lead their flocks and keep them together. They make their sheep feel safe. They lead them to quiet valleys of green pastures and restful waters. They protect their sheep with a rod and a staff. Jesus says that He is the Shepherd.

But what does that say about us? We are sheep. We get scared easily. We have trouble finding food on our own. We need to be protected from things that can harm us. We tend to wander away. We really don’t think for ourselves. I know that being compared to sheep is not very good for our self-esteem, but Jesus is spot on. He makes this comparison because everyone in His time would have understood exactly what He meant. We lack spiritual toughness. We are driven by wants instead of needs. For example, we want Starbucks, we need water. We want Uggs, we need boots. We want to eat out. We need food. If the Lord is our Shepherd, He will make sure that we get what we need, not what we want. He will keep us safe and together. There are other shepherds who will lead us astray, probably by catering to our wants, by making us believe that our Jesus Shepherd is not doing a good enough job of taking care of us. They trick us into thinking that our wants are actually needs. We do need laundry but I don’t need a dry cleaner. I do need boots but I don’t need Uggs. There are plenty of other boots out there that cost less and are more fire retardant.

The key to finding peace in this life is knowing that the Lord is your Shepherd, and that He will not necessarily give you want you want, but He will give you what you need.

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