The Lord is my Shepherd, there is nothing I shall want

Homily for Sixteenth Sunday of Year B

by Fr. Tommy Lane

“At least we’ve got Jesus” is what an American priest I know says when we are disappointed with how things are going. “At least we’ve got Jesus.” This is also what the Scripture readings today say to us; when everything could be better do not fret, “At least we’ve got Jesus.”

In the first reading from the prophet Jeremiah (Jer 23:1-6) we hear God’s disappointment with the shepherds of his flock. At that time in Israel and in the nations around Israel the kings were often called shepherds because they had a duty to look after their people. The kings in Israel had all the more reason to be called shepherds because they were not just monarchs but were expected to act on behalf of God towards his people. Unfortunately only a small number of the kings in Israel were men of faith, and many of the kings, contrary to what was expected of them, did nothing to help the faith of their people. At the end of the first reading we hear God promising that he will raise up a wise and honest king. The kings were all from the tribe of Judah, one of the twelve tribes of Israel and Jesus too was from the tribe of Judah. Jesus is the one whom the Father sent as the wise and honest shepherd of his people.

We see Jesus fulfilling this role as shepherd of the people in the Gospel today (Mark 6:30-34) as he took pity on the people since they were like sheep without a shepherd so he decided to teach them. Like sheep without a shepherd means they lacked good leadership. Like sheep without a shepherd means they were in danger of wandering astray. But they knew that Jesus was different and as we heard in the Gospel the people hurried to where they knew Jesus would be. In some respects we can see similarities between then and now, for example disappointment with those in authority, but we can say, “At least we’ve got Jesus.” When we have Jesus we have everything, even if we have nothing else, because Jesus is everything. When we pass from this world we will take nothing with us except our faith in Jesus and our love for his mother Mary, the prayers we said and our good deeds. When we have Jesus we have everything, even if we have nothing else, because Jesus is everything.

The beautiful and famous Psalm we prayed today (Ps 23), “The Lord is my shepherd” was written many centuries before Jesus but when we pray this Psalm it is natural for us to think of Jesus.

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want.

Jesus is our shepherd, when we have Jesus in our life we want for nothing because then we have everything. When we can say there is nothing I want, we are happy. So it is only when we have Jesus in our life, when Jesus is our shepherd, that we are happy. The person who can truly say,

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want

is a truly happy person. How do we get to be able to say with all our heart and truly mean

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want?

Surely it means having Jesus in our day, every day, as much as possible. The more we have Jesus in our day, every day, the more Jesus is our shepherd, and we want for nothing and are happy. This means not just believing in Jesus, not just knowing about Jesus but knowing Jesus as a real person, knowing Jesus as a friend. To get to know Jesus in this way means spending time with Jesus in prayer every day, not just 5 minutes or 10 minutes but as much time as possible every day. Jesus is waiting for you, waiting for you to get to know him. To get to know Jesus in this way means not just praying as a duty but praying until prayer becomes a joy for us. To get to know Jesus in this way means that if we did not pray to Jesus in this way for one day, that day would not feel right, and we would know there was something missing from our life. In other words, when we go from knowing about Jesus to really knowing Jesus, our life changes that day and is never again the same. How could it be the same after we’ve met Jesus? Jesus is waiting for you, waiting for you to get to know him. When we’ve met Jesus in this way we will want to meet Jesus above all in the Eucharist every Sunday because that is what Jesus wants, “Do this in memory of me”, and if possible also daily Mass. When we’ve met Jesus in this way we will want to confess our sins to Jesus in the Sacrament of Reconciliation often because we will want nothing to separate us from Jesus.

When we can truly pray the first two lines of the Psalm with our heart,

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want?

we can truly pray the remainder of the Psalm also and we know it’s true,

Fresh and green are the pastures
where he [the Lord] gives me repose.
Near restful waters he leads me
to revive my drooping spirit.

When there is evil around us we do not worry because

If I should walk in the valley of darkness
no evil would I fear.
You are there with your crook and your staff;
with these you give me comfort.

When we have Jesus we have everything, even if we have nothing else, because Jesus is everything. Jesus is waiting for you, waiting for you to get to know him. “At least we’ve got Jesus.”

The Lord is my shepherd;
there is nothing I shall want?

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was on vacation in Ireland after joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

More homilies for the Sixteenth Sunday Year B

Serving others and Mental Health

Related Homilies: on the Psalm Jesus is the Good Shepherd

on the disciples resting Slow Down to Enjoy Life and Hear Jesus

stories about helping others