Today we are celebrating at St. Anthony’s the Feast of St. Anthony and the conclusion of Totus Tuus. Who is St. Anthony of Padua? He was born in Lisbon, Portugal, in a wealthy family. He gave up all the comforts of the life and joined the Augustinians, later looking at the life of Franciscan Martyrs, he decided to join Franciscan order. Anthony was an excellent preacher and traveled to Morocco to spread God's truth, but became extremely sick and was returned to Portugal. The ship was blown off course and ended up in Sicily. It was said that he was a cook for a while and was attending an ordination during that period when no one was prepared to give a homily at the ordination, and Anthony accepted this task. His speech was astounding and since then his fame spread. Anthony emphasized the ‘Crucified Lord’ in his sermons. Once he wrote: “Christ who is your life is hanging before you, so that you look at the cross as in a mirror. There you will be able to know how mortal were your wounds that no medicine other than the Blood of the Son of God could heal… Nowhere other than looking at himself in the mirror of the cross can better understand how much he is worth.” St. Anthony was a shepherd who cared for his people.
The reading talks about shepherds. In the Old Testament Israel and the nations around it the kings were often called shepherds because they had a duty to look after their people. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah thunders against Israel's careless leaders, because they have shown no concern for their flock. The prophet also foretells the rise of a good, new shepherd in the family line of David.
We see Jesus fulfilling this role as shepherd of the people in the Gospel. In the first part of the Gospel, Jesus is caring for his own disciples, and in the second part he took pity on the people since they were like sheep without a shepherd.
Sheep nibble themselves astray: they keep their heads down, just as we tend to keep our heads glued to our jobs – until we look up and realize we don’t know where we are. It would be a very good thing to stop and rest, as Jesus said. When we look at it rightly, there is only one Shepherd, and every one of us is the lost sheep.
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.” We see Jesus’ concern for his apostles, at the same time concern for people. He is our shepherd, and at the same time we are sent out as shepherds. In other words, in certain roles, we are the shepherd and other time we are the sheep without a shepherd.
The reading reminds us of two points: we have to find time to spend time with our shepherd and at the same time we are sent out like apostles, shepherds, to bring the “Good News” to others. Perhaps our commitment to following Jesus as his disciple leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm the importance of times of rest and renewal. Jesus wanted his disciples to come away and spend time alone with him. This is what we seek and find in our life of prayer and in our celebration of the Eucharist. This is the place we are fed and send out to continue our mission.