The National Catholic Review
Daniel J. Harrington
Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time (A), June 15, 2008
“We are his people: the sheep of his flock” (Ps 100:3)

Do you trust God? Do you believe that God really loves and cares for you? These are central questions in the spiritual life of any Christian. They do not mean that we can expect to escape all suffering, win the lottery several times and become rich and famous, of course. The issue is more whether we trust God to be with us and for us, even in the midst of the darkest moments in our lives. Today’s Scripture readings remind us that the God revealed in the Bible is always with and for us.

Today’s passage from Exodus 19 sets the scene for God’s self-manifestation to Moses on Mount Sinai and the giving of the Ten Commandments and the other stipulations in God’s covenant with Israel. In what serves as the historical prologue to the Book of the Covenant in Exodus 19–24, God recalls his continuing care for Israel in liberating the people from slavery in Egypt, offers them a relationship in which they will be God’s “special possession” and promises to make them “a kingdom of priests, a holy nation.” The God of Mount Sinai loves and cares for his people.

Psalm 100 was composed as a call for Israel to worship God in the Jerusalem temple. It is permeated by a strong sense of God’s loving care for his people as “the flock he tends.” It affirms that the Lord is good, and that his kindness endures forever. The God worshiped at the Temple loves and cares for his people.

In today’s reading from Matthew, Jesus as the Son of God manifests his heavenly Father’s love and care. Jesus is moved with pity for his people. Because of the failures of their political and religious leaders, they have become “like sheep without a shepherd.” While not ignoring the history of God’s people, Jesus looks especially to the present and the future. The focus of his vision is the kingdom of God, to which he refers with an image of a harvest. He is especially aware of a need for more laborers to join him in proclaiming God’s reign and in reconciling sinners to God. So he appoints 12 apostles to share and carry on his mission. Their appointment is the occasion for the Missionary Discourse in Matthew 10, the second great speech in this Gospel. In his ministry Jesus seeks to help others recognize that his heavenly Father loves and cares for his people.

In today’s passage from Romans 5, Paul reflects on how Jesus in his life, death and resurrection made manifest God’s love and care for humankind. According to Paul, the greatest proof of God’s love and care for us was Jesus’ willingness to die on behalf of sinful humankind and so make possible a new and better relationship with God. Paul’s major interest in Jesus is directed to the effects of the paschal mystery. He insists that Jesus’ death and resurrection have made available the benefits of justification, reconciliation and salvation to each and every person.

Do you trust God? Do you believe that God really loves and cares for you? Today’s Scripture passages affirm that the God revealed on Mount Sinai, worshiped at the Jerusalem temple and incarnated in Jesus is the God who really loves and cares for us.

Daniel J. Harrington, S.J., is professor of New Testament at Boston College School of Theology and Ministry (formerly Weston Jesuit School of Theology) in Chestnut Hill, Mass.
Readings: 
Readings: Ex 19:2-6; Ps 100:1-3, 5; Rom 5:6-11; Mt 9:36–10:8
Prayer: 

•How have you experienced God’s love and care for you?

• Do you ever pray that God will send more laborers for the harvest? Might you be one of those laborers? How?

• What do you understand by “the people of God”? Who belongs to it? How and why?