On Friday of this past week, we marked the 43rd anniversary of our landing on the moon and Neil Armstrong’s famous, “one small step.” Since then, eleven others have had the distinction of having walked on the moon – and we have been able to finally make the complaint: “We can put a man on the moon, but I still cannot get the soda machine to accept my wrinkled dollar bill!”
The Age of Exploration – an era of firsts – marks the achievements of humanity as we accomplish wonders in our world. As we develop our technology, more and more of the “impossible” becomes possible, and the miraculous becomes commonplace. However, when we truly consider the wonder of creation – how complex and interconnected we all are. In fact, for me, the more we discover, the more we learn, the more filled with wonder I am.
But “interconnected” carries with it “responsibility.” The question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” implies a positive response. And this is the case not only for we the people but also for our leaders – our shepherds.
The prophet Jeremiah calls upon the shepherds of Israel – their leaders – to recognize their duty to lead the people to God and to live in His way. The mere fact that Jeremiah has to remind them means that they have been terribly negligent. “Woe to the shepherds who mislead and scatter the flock of my pasture.” God sees this failure on the part of the shepherds, and for the sake of His People He is prepared to step in and act on their behalf.
Paul, writing to the Ephesians, reminds us of the solidarity we share in Jesus Christ. We were, at one time, “far off.” It was a big world, and we had a lot of space and time between ourselves. However, just as communication, transportation and technological advances have served to make the world “smaller,” so too does our connection to Jesus bring us together – erasing any differences or prejudices that would separate us; so much so, that Paul can say that he has created “in himself one new person in place of the two, thus establishing peace, and might reconcile both with God, in one body, through the cross.” Thus, together, we share that connection in the one Spirit of God.
How is any of this possible? How can I be united with a person halfway across the planet in a way that demands my concern and love for her? How do we dare make the claim that we are one Church, with all our variety, opinions and ideas?
The promise made by Jeremiah is brought to fulfillment in our Gospel. Seeing the people who came to him, Jesus is moved with concern for them, “for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” Looking at their hearts, he saw them trampled by the narrow-minded demands of the Law and those who led the nation. In their place, Jesus would open their hearts and let God walk there – where He can show them to true Shepherd’s care that they deserve. When we allow God to walk in our hearts, we are formed into one People – a sign of love and unity that we are meant to be, rather than scattered sheep who cannot witness to that love. It takes a heart prepared by prayer and fed by God’s life.
Forty-three years ago, a man stepped out of a spaceship and walked around on the moon, and the world watched in wonder and rejoiced. Almost two thousand years ago, God walked along the beach at the Sea of Galilee, and the poor and downtrodden came to Him seeking to be fed. His heart went out to them in their need and their hunger. Now, Jesus waits to step into our lives again and show us love’s greatest expression – nourishing us with Himself.
We can put a man on the moon, folks. Certainly, we can allow God into our hearts.