The Hills of Galilee

My Homily for the 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. I write it out word for word but only use it as a guide as I preach.

This past January I went to the Holy Land and the first couple of days we spent in the northern part of Israel and stayed at a Hotel on the Sea of Galilee itself. We went to visit some of the sights where Jesus was, for example we went up to the place of the sermon on the mount, we went to the place where Jesus helped the apostles catch many fish after his resurrection. As we traveled what I began to realize about this region was how hilly it is. It was easy for us because we were in a bus we sat there and enjoyed the view as we went by. But I began to think back to the time of our lord, the people who came to see Jesus, the people who may have traveled miles and miles to see Jesus had to go up and down these hills by foot. Maybe they would have a donkey or a camel to help them but many of them probably had to walk. I haven’t gone up many high trails but the couple of times I did I remember how exhausting it was to climb. It was amazing to think of the lengths these people went to, to see Jesus!

In this weekends Gospel we hear about the Apostles needing a break, their message was so effective that they simply needed to get away. Jesus had a good idea lets get in the boat and go to the other side of the sea of Galilee we will get away from these crowds and we can rest. There are a couple of things I remember about the sea of Galilee. It’s not small but you can see the other shore if the haze isn’t to bad, and there are a lot of hills and cliffs around the sea as well. It wasn’t something easy to walk around, let alone beat a boat to the other side on foot.

But listen to what these people do, they hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. This truly shows how determined these people were, when they saw Jesus and knew where he was going they ran to see him. We don’t know the distance they went or how quickly they had to move but I doubt it was something short, they likely had to move great distances to see the Lord.

Soon after this we will hear about the miracle of feeding five thousand people. This may not sound like a lot to us, as 100 thousand people show up at Tiger Stadium many weekends in the fall. But these people had to walk, or at best ride a camel or donkey to see Jesus. 5000 people in one place is impressive when most of them walked!

What is clear is that these people are looking for something. Jesus has something that they are willing to go to great lengths to go for. What we hear in the first reading helps us understand what they are looking for. Jeremiah tells us that the shepherds scattered and drove away the sheep and didn’t care for them. In response to this God will gather the scattered sheep from all lands to himself. He will appoint new shepherds to lead them and to care for them. Last week we heard about how many people responded to the Apostles preaching, they were shepherds sent out by the one Shepherd Jesus to gather all the nations back into God’s kingdom.

An amazing connection is happening between Jeremiah and today’s Gospel story. That prophecy is being fulfilled in the action of Christ himself and through his apostles. These people have found their new shepherd and Jesus is beginning to bring them back together. They followed the calling of the shepherd and through him and his apostles they found what they were looking for, they found rest, rescue and life eternal.

God wants us to follow him the same way in our own lives. Jesus our shepherd calls us to follow him as well. We are blessed that we don’t have to go up and down hills travel many miles to go see our Lord, but it would be a test for us if we had to walk to church in this heat ☹even just a couple of miles, but we are still able to drive to Church, sit in the air conditioning and receive his body and blood and listen to him speak to us through the scriptures.

Even though we are blessed with this Church and many other churches very close to here, God still wants us to follow him and follow him daily. I too think we can look at the example of these people who went to great lengths to follow our lord to reflect on our own lives.

We all need to take time to reflect on how we are following god in our lives.  In prayer we should ask ourselves “how am I following you in my life.” God wants to help us follow him in our daily lives. He wants to help us pray with the scriptures in a deeper way, to have more fruitful prayer and time of silent meditation, to continue to overcome sin daily and receive his mercy and forgiveness when we fall. It’s not easy for us to follow God in our lives but he places in us the desire to follow him and he will give us the grace to do it.

As I traveled throughout the holy land I continued to be amazed at the conditions, the distance and the elevation the people of our lord’s time had to travel to follow him. In our own lives God wants us to follow him more every day but focus on doing a little bit more every day. Find just a little bit more time to pray, a little bit more time to read the scriptures, to pray the rosary and . If we strive to do just a little bit more every day we will be following Christ in our own lives and one day too we will come to see him face to face.

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