Today’s Gospel begins with a sense of excitement. Last week, Jesus sent his twelve apostles out to preach, teach and heal the sick. Today, we see them return, eager to tell Jesus all that they have done. Their mission has been a success – there are crowds of people following Jesus, so many coming and going that the apostles don’t even have time to eat. Jesus’ first concern is for his apostles – they need to take time out and rest. But even that turns out to be impossible. Jesus and his disciples escape to a lonely place by boat, but the crowd follows them on foot!
When Jesus sees the crowd that has followed him, he doesn’t react with anger or annoyance. He takes pity on the people. He can see that they are lost and confused, ‘like sheep without a shepherd,’ so he takes time to teach them.
Many people today feel just as lost and confused. There are many ‘shepherds’ who will offer to lead us, but often they are preaching hatred and division. These false shepherds have no concern for the people, and are only pursuing their own interests, like the shepherds whom the prophet Jeremiah denounces in today’s First Reading. The people of Jesus’ time were drawn to him, because they saw his care and compassion for them. The people of our time, too, need to hear about the love of Jesus.