Reflection for Sunday, July 18, 2021: 16th Week of Ordinary Time.

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Kalkowski, Julie
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|Being from cattle country, I don't know much about sheep, a focus of today's readings.  When I searched for information about sheep and a shepherd's responsibility, it became clear to me why Jesus used those metaphors to reveal God's love and concern for us.|How many times do we read in the Scriptures….do not be afraid…peace be with you…do not be anxious?  Thinking about the Good Shepherd in today's gospel reminded me of the numerous times I have heard and read those words.|What do Good Shepherds do?  They calm their sheep, they help them feel less anxious by their constant presence. The voice of a shepherd alone can settle a frighted flock. |Jesus does not want us to be so anxious and fearful as he knows what fear does to us. Fear robs of our ability to think clearly, to believe things about others we know aren't true. It diminishes our capacity to feel joy, to value what we do have versus fretting about what we don't have. Jesus wants us to know that a life lived anxiously or in fear, was not the reason he died for us.  Jesus died to bring us the fullness of life, not a small circle we sometimes draw to feel 'safe' in.|Fear hurts our ability to connect with others…to see another's pain or hardships.  We don't have to solve anyone's problems, but can we tame our fears and anxieties enough to be able to do something to relieve someone else's suffering? |My 89 year old father is still grieving the loss of his wonderful wife 13 months ago. For a while, he as very angry with God and was often bitter about the turn his life had taken. One day I stopped in to say 'hello' and he had a smile on his face. He had just hung up the phone and told me the widow thanked him for reaching out to her as she felt so alone. Dad's phone call helped her see she wasn't abandoned, that someone cared for her. At 89, my dad can only do limited Deacon duties now, but he has started a phone ministry. There are about 15 people weekly he checks in on and his calls have become a lifeline for many of those people. At the same time, this new ministry has been so life giving to him. He still fiercely misses my mom, but his bitterness and anger have been significantly diminished.|The Good Shepherd came to bring us peace and to reduce our fears by teaching us we are never alone, that God is always with us. I also think Jesus tried to help us see those on the margins. My sense is that Jesus is calling us to move beyond the flock of "me" to the flock of "we."   And based on my father's experience, the flock of "we" is a much better place to be. |Now how to become part of that flock of "we" will be a work in progress for all of us as it seems like fear and hate are so much easier to summon than love and understanding. Several years, I made a silent retreat at the Jesuit retreat house on Lake Wiinnebago in Oshkosh, WI. (And really, those of you who know me, stop laughing!) |The beauty of my surroundings and the peacefulness of that holy ground refreshed my spirit and helped me see what was limiting my life…what was making my circle so small.  Sitting by the lake and watching the pelicans brought me this prayer that is nudging me towards the peace the Good Shepherd is calling us to.|(Thanks to St. Francis for the template.)|Gracious God,|          Help me move…|                   From judging to understanding|                   From anticipating to participating|                   From fear to trust|                   From controlling to including|                   From feeling overwhelming to gratitude for my full life|                   And from anxiety to your peace.|                   I ask this in Jesus' name. Amen|For those of you whom music especially speaks to, this song is just about perfect for today's readings .|Now go in peace so you can bring peace to others today.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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