First Reading: From the Book of Tobit 3:1-11, 16
1 Then, sad at heart, I sighed and wept, and began this prayer of lamentation:
2 You are just, O Lord, and just are all your works. All your ways are grace and truth, and you are the Judge of the world.
3 Therefore, Lord, remember me, look on me. Do not punish me for my sins or for my needless faults or those of my ancestors.
4 For we have sinned against you and broken your commandments; and you have given us over to be plundered, to captivity and death, to be the talk, the laughing-stock and scorn of all the nations among whom you have dispersed us.
5 And now all your decrees are true when you deal with me as my faults deserve, and those of my ancestors. For we have neither kept your commandments nor walked in truth before you.
6 So now, do with me as you will; be pleased to take my life from me; so that I may be delivered from earth and become earth again. Better death than life for me, for I have endured groundless insult and am in deepest sorrow. Lord, be pleased to deliver me from this affliction. Let me go away to my everlasting home; do not turn your face from me, O Lord. Better death for me than life prolonged in the face of unrelenting misery: I can no longer bear to listen to insults.
7 It chanced on the same day that Sarah the daughter of Raguel, who lived in Media at Ecbatana, also heard insults from one of her father’s maids.
8 For she had been given in marriage seven times, and Asmodeus, the worst of demons, had killed her bridegrooms one after another before ever they had slept with her as man with wife. The servant-girl said, ‘Yes, you kill your bridegrooms yourself. That makes seven already to whom you have been given, and you have not once been in luck yet.
9 Just because your bridegrooms have died, that is no reason for punishing us. Go and join them, and may we be spared the sight of any child of yours!’
10 That day, she grieved, she sobbed, and she went up to her father’s room intending to hang herself. But then she thought, ‘Suppose they were to blame my father! They would say, “You had an only daughter whom you loved, and now she has hanged herself for grief.” I cannot cause my father a sorrow which would bring down his old age to the dwelling of the dead. I should do better not to hang myself, but to beg the Lord to let my die and not live to hear any more insults.’
11 And at this, by the window, with outstretched arms she said this prayer: You are blessed, O God of mercy! May your name be blessed for ever, and may all things you have made bless you everlastingly.
16 This time the prayer of each of them found favour before the glory of God,
Responsorial Psalm: From Psalms 25:2-4, 4-5, 6-7, 8-9
2 to you, my God. BUT in my trust in you do not put me to shame, let not my enemies gloat over me.
3 CALLING to you, none shall ever be put to shame, but shame is theirs who groundlessly break faith.
4 DIRECT me in your ways, Yahweh, and teach me your paths.
5 ENCOURAGE me to walk in your truth and teach me since you are the God who saves me. FOR my hope is in you all day long — such is your generosity, Yahweh.
6 GOODNESS and faithful love have been yours for ever, Yahweh, do not forget them.
7 HOLD not my youthful sins against me, but remember me as your faithful love dictates.
8 INTEGRITY and generosity are marks of Yahweh for he brings sinners back to the path.
9 JUDICIOUSLY he guides the humble, instructing the poor in his way.
Gospel Reading: From the Gospel Account of Saint Mark 12:18-27
18 Then some Sadducees — who deny that there is a resurrection — came to him and they put this question to him,
19 ‘Master, Moses prescribed for us that if a man’s brother dies leaving a wife but no child, the man must marry the widow to raise up children for his brother.
20 Now there were seven brothers; the first married a wife and then died leaving no children.
21 The second married the widow, and he too died leaving no children; with the third it was the same,
22 and none of the seven left any children. Last of all the woman herself died.
23 Now at the resurrection, when they rise again, whose wife will she be, since she had been married to all seven?’
24 Jesus said to them, ‘Surely the reason why you are wrong is that you understand neither the scriptures nor the power of God.
25 For when they rise from the dead, men and women do not marry; no, they are like the angels in heaven.
26 Now about the dead rising again, have you never read in the Book of Moses, in the passage about the bush, how God spoke to him and said: I am the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob?
27 He is God, not of the dead, but of the living. You are very much mistaken.’
Theme: I came that they may have life abundantly
Do you know the peace and security of the Good Shepherd who watches over his own? The Old Testament often speaks of God as shepherd of his people, Israel. The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want (Psalm 23:1). Give ear, O Shepherd of Israel, you who lead Joseph like a flock! (Psalm 80:1) We are his people, and the sheep of his pasture (Psalm 100:3). The Messiah is also pictured as the shepherd of God’s people: He will feed his flock like a shepherd, he will gather the lambs in his arms (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus says he is the Good Shepherd who will risk his life to seek out and save the stray sheep (Matthew 18:12, Luke 15:4). He is the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25).
The Good Shepherd and Guardian of our souls
What can shepherding teach us about God and our relationship with him? At the end of each day the shepherd brought his sheep into shelter. They knew the voice of their shepherd and came at his beckoning. So familiar was the shepherd and his sheep, that each was called by a distinct name. In the winter the sheep were usually brought to a communal village shelter which was locked and kept secure by a guardian. In the summer months the sheep were usually kept out in the fields and then gathered into a fold at night which was guarded by a shepherd throughout the night. He was literally the door through which the sheep had to pass.
The Scriptures describe God as a shepherd who brings security and peace to his people. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore (Psalm 120:8). Even the leaders of God’s people are called shepherds: they shall lead them out and bring them in; that the congregation of the Lord may not be as sheep which have no shepherd (Numbers 27:17). Just as a shepherd kept watch over his sheep and protected them from danger, so Jesus stands watch over his people as the Shepherd and Guardian of our souls (1 Peter 2:25). Do you know the peace and security of a life fully submitted to God?
Jesus willingly laid down his life for us – the sheep he ransomed with his own blood
St. Augustine of Hippo (354-430 AD) writes: “He has accomplished what he taught us: He has shown us what He commanded us to do. He laid down his own life for his sheep, that within our mystery he might change his body and blood into food, and nourish the sheep he had redeemed with the food of his own flesh. He has shown us the way we must follow, despite fear of death. He has laid down the pattern to which we must conform ourselves. The first duty laid on us is to use our material goods in mercy for the needs of his sheep, and then, if necessary, give even our lives for them. He that will not give of his substance for his sheep, how shall he lay down his life for them?” (Tr. 46 in John). Do you look to Jesus the Good Shepherd, to receive the strength and courage you need to live and serve as his disciple?
“Lord Jesus, you always lead me in the way of true peace and safety. May I never doubt your care nor stray from your ways. Keep me safe in the shelter of your presence.”