Catechist Background and Preparation
To prepare for the session, read all the readings.
Psalm 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Spend a few minutes reflecting on what these readings mean for you today. Is there a particular reading which appeals to you? Is there a word or image that engages you?
Read the Word in Liturgy and Catholic Doctrine sections. These give you background on what you will be doing this session. Read over the session outline and make it your own. Check to see what materials you will need for the session.
The Word in Liturgy
Today’s first reading is from a series of oracles in which Jeremiah inveighs against the kings who had led God’s people astray, causing both political and moral collapse. The current king, Zedekiah, was no better, and so the prophet foretells a time in which the Lord himself will protect and guide his people through a king who will be a “righteous shoot” (the allusion is to Nathan’s prophecy to David recorded in 2 Samuel 7). The name of this future leader (“The Lord our justice”) is a play on the name of the corrupt king Zedekiah and underscores the point that God’s power will be at work in the future Messiah.
Today’s gospel is a follow-up to last week’s story of the sending of the Twelve out on a mission, although in the intervening verses (vv. 14-29) Mark inserts the story of King Herod and the death of John the Baptizer. The narrative of the return of the Twelve and Jesus’ invitation to them to come away and rest serves to introduce a new section of the gospel that begins with the feeding of the five thousand. In the transitional verses that make up today’s reading, the Twelve are for the first and only time in Mark’s gospel called “apostles.” More often than not, Mark’s references to Jesus’ disciples are rather unfavorable. Here they have faithfully and successfully done what the Lord told them to do, and so they are given a new title that signifies a new relationship with Jesus. It is not by chance that Mark says they reported on what they had “done and taught.” Like Jesus (see v. 34: “he began to teach”), the apostles are to be both doers and teachers once the shepherd has been taken from them, and here we have the first report of their success in that regard.
Pastoral Ministry in the Church
There are four major spheres of contemporary pastoral ministry. First, this term can indicate any activity that attempts to proclaim the Good News of the Gospel, the message of salvation embodied in the words and deeds of Jesus Christ. Second, it can also stand for any activity of public, communal prayer of assembled believers, whether that is the celebration of sacraments, the Liturgy of the Hours, or some other locally created prayer service. Third, it can also denote any activity that promotes or assists the building up of the household of the faithful—from administrative acts of the Church to local parish parties. Fourth, it can indicate all those actions that serve the needs of individuals, such as marriage counseling, the operation of food pantries, rent assistance, disaster aid, or any other like endeavor.
Whatever specific and practical form it takes, pastoral ministry is designed to help people recognize and respond to the saving presence of God in this world. God reaches out to us time and again through the Spirit, inviting us to attain our true stature as children of God, and our dignity as members of the body of Christ.