What is the most important thing for you today? What do you look forward to? What is waiting for you when you finish the work that must be done, the thing you are eager for?
Today’s liturgy reminds us over and over again that what should be most important for us, what we should look toward, what is good and necessary for us is the Good Shepherd, Who saves and gives peace to those who seek him above all else!
The Entrance Antiphon recalls that God’s “right hand is filled with saving justice” and the Collect asks Him to fill those of us “rescued from slavery to sin” with “holy joy”. The First Reading from Hosea and the Responsorial Psalm are all about those who did NOT rely on the One God, instead, building their own idols and sacrificing to them, as if they could expiate sin: “the Lord is not pleased with them. He shall still remember their guilt and punish their sins”.
In contrast, Matthew’s Gospel shows Jesus curing the sick and preaching the Good News to eager crowds. While the Pharisees reject him and accuse him of being in league with the devil, the people long for his healing presence; they are “troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.” He reminds his disciples that the people have a deep need, more vast than they can fill, as Jesus tells them to pray for laborers to serve them. The Church is to be the continued presence of Christ the Good Shepherd to his troubled sheep, and they will find peace and salvation when they seek Him as their highest good.
But we sheep are prone to erect idols, which stand between us and God, though we don’t call them that. Adam and Eve did not consider the idea of being like God an “idol,” yet it separated them from God. And the Enemy has continued to use the same tactic all throughout time: distract us from the ONE GOOD by promising ultimate fulfillment in ANOTHER GOOD. These are rarely made of silver or stone, and we do not offer burnt sacrifices to them, but we all suffer the same temptation: we all want to be happy and peaceful and fulfilled, so we aim for whatever seems to promise that, erecting a kind of “idol” in our hearts and minds.
One way to see what we idolize is to consider what takes up most of our time, or what we long to do besides the thing we are doing, or what we are working to achieve that fills our minds. What is the thing we rely on to “make us happy”? Idols can be ideas, people, activities, goals, material goods (I think of these as the “5 P’s”: popularity, prestige, power, prosperity, pleasure), anything that we reach for with more eagerness than we reach for God.
Despite the constant temptations, we know that only God can give us what we long for: freedom, joy, real peace, and eternal life.
Kathryn Mulderink, MA, is married to Robert, Station Manager for Holy Family Radio. Together they have seven children (including newly ordained Father Rob and seminarian Luke ;-), and two grandchildren. She is a Secular Discalced Carmelite and has published five books and many articles. Over the last 25 years, she has worked as a teacher, headmistress, catechist, Pastoral Associate, and DRE. Currently, she serves the Church as a writer and voice talent for Catholic Radio, by publishing and speaking, and by collaborating with the diocesan Office of Catechesis, various parishes, and other ministries to lead others to encounter Christ and engage their faith. Her website is https://www.kathryntherese.com/.