Report back meetings are both important and valuable. They make a special contribution to the execution of the plan. The ‘troops in the field’ are able to recount their experiences, achievements, difficulties and failures. The leader is then able to evaluate the overall success – he also beings to see where both the plan, and methods of ‘troops’ need to be honed. More importantly he begins to discern which workers need to be calmed down, and where individual enthusiasm may have overshadowed realties. In addition some of the troops may well need a reminder that any success is not to be solely apportioned to their own individual talents and labours.

TODAY’S GOSPEL [MARK 6: 30 – 34]

records that “the apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.” In passing, I find it interesting that here we encounter Mark’s first use of the word apostles. They were sent out in pairs from a group Mark described “as the Twelve.” They return as apostles. The word apostle means one who is both called and sent. Last Sunday Mark told us that Jesus “called the Twelve and began to send them out … .” We are all called. Then, the moment we are sent we become apostles. We begin whatever ministry with which we have been entrusted. However there must be an acceptance that I have to submit a report back which is subject to scrutiny by both group and leader. Jesus was aware of egotistical dangers. Right from the very beginning he “sent them out in pairs.” – so that there would be a minimum of checks and balances. Lose canon and armchair critics become serious debilitating and destructive forces in the Church.
The likes of these are present even among our ordained ministers together with laity who have influential ministries. Today, Paul warns us that it is so easy to create barriers and divisions. Am I in any way the cause of these hurts?

In this context we have to take seriously the warnings provided by JEREMIAH in our OLD TESTAMENT EXTRACT [23: 1 – 6]. “Woe to the shepherds who destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture. …You have scattered my flock … and have not attended to them.” Here we need to be encouraged with renewed hope. The Lord promises to be a continued presence and force in the life of his people. In many instances this promise seems to be remote or delayed in its manifestation. Yet, the promise remains. “Then I will gather the remnant of my flock …. and bring them back to their fold. … I will set shepherds over them who will care for them.” The history of the Church gives force and credence to this guarantee. TODAY’S PSALM [23 or 22] provides moving confirmation. “He revives my soul … guides me along the right path … your crook and your staff will give me comfort.” In addition, it is important for God’s people to accept that merely giving up hope or throwing in the towel is counterproductive. If it is any consolation there are times when faithful and effective priests have to battle and persevere in the face of recalcitrant bishops! Words of Saint Paul in TODAY’S NEW TESTAMENT READING [EPHESIANS 2: 13 – 18] remind us of WHO always remains active.”

Christ Jesus … is our peace … has made us both one, and has broken down the dividing wall of hostility … so making peace … bringing the hostility to an end.”
In the light of this Pauline teaching and today’s Gospel, there is one simple question to be asked and answered. Who is the leader – the one in overall command? Christ is the head of the Church. The Church is HIS body. All too often these two facts are ignored or overlooked. No one who is called and sent by the Lord should consider themselves anything else than under the authority of Christ. We do not act as independent entities. Once again, all of us are called and chosen. Never forget that whatever we do as members of Christ’s Body, the Church, we must do in such a manner {our approach and attitude} so as to build the body and bring hostility to an end.
The returning apostles returned to Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught.” All present day ministers, clerical and lay, need regularly – over and over again – to return to Jesus and provide him with an honest account of their stewardship. The gospel extract also makes it clear that while there will be times of real and necessary pressure, the need to withdraw for personal ‘feeding’ has both value and importance.
God-in-Christ has an anxious concern for the flock. Each one of us must become shepherds in our own families and parishes. This includes the ministry of never contributing to, or assisting in the maintenance of, divisions.

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