16th Sunday in Ordinary Time B
Once upon a time there was a man who owned a lumber business. He advertised in the local newspaper that he was hiring new men to cut down trees. The first man to come into the office to apply for the job was a young burly man, barely 25 years old.
Immediately impressed with his size, energy and build he hired the young man on the spot. “Here is an ax. Why don’t you start today cutting trees on the western part of the forest”
The young man did as he was told. Grateful that he got the job he wanted to impress his boss. He worked non-stop for 12 hours cutting down tree after tree. At the end of the day he reported to his boss that he cut down 100 trees.
The was impressed. He knew then that he made a great hire in this kid. “Come back tomorrow bright and early. You will be working in the eastern part of the forest. See you tomorrow!”
The next day the young man showed up for work at the crack of dawn ready to cut down trees. For twelve hours he cut down tree after tree. However, at the end of the day the young man was puzzled and disappointed because he reported to the boss that he only cut down 75 trees.
“That’s ok!” said the boss. “We all have a slow day once in a while. There is always tomorrow. Come back tomorrow and this time work in the northern part of the forest.”
The young man was happy that he was given another chance that he came back the next day at the crack of dawn to work on the northern part of the forest. He worked and worked for twelve hours cutting down tree after tree. Yet, at the end of the day he was more disappointed with himself than he was the previous day because he had cut down only 50 trees.
When he went to report to the boss he was beside himself. “I’m sorry boss! I don’t what’s going on!” he said. “I am working my tail off in those woods and I am cutting down less and less trees each day. What am I to do?!’
The boss was a very wise and patient man. He thought for a moment and smiled at the young man before he responded, “Kid,” he said, “Have you taken time out of day to sharpen your ax?”
“What do you mean ‘take time to sharpen my ax?” said the kid. “I don’t have time to sharpen my ax. I am too busy cutting down trees!”
“You see,” the boss said, “If you don’t take just 10 minutes out of your day to sharpen your ax then the ax becomes dull and it becomes useless. Also, while you’re sharpening your ax take time to rest a bit. Eat something. If you don’t then you, too will become dull and tired just like your ax. If both of you are tired and and dull then you will cut down less and less trees.”
The next the kid came to work he cut down tree after tree until around noon when he took a lunch break. He sharpened his ax while he had a sandwich and rested a bit. He worked for a few more hours and then at the end of the day he reported to his boss that he cut down 100 trees.
In the gospel this weekend we see the apostles coming back from their missionary journeys of preaching and healing. After they reported to Jesus everything they did what does he ask them to do next?
He said to them,
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
In other words, “I am so proud of you. I’ve sent you into the world to shepherd people. You have shared your love of my by preaching, healing and serving others. Now, take the time to rest. Sharpen your ax. If you don’t then you will burn out. You will become dull. You will become ineffective shepherds”
The same is true for you and me. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, calls of us to continue his work of shepherding (leading others to him by our deeds and words). Many of us here are already shepherds: spouses, parents & grandparents, teachers, employers. Through these many roles that we that carry Christ has entrusted to us the ministry of shepherding.
Often the responsibilities of being a shepherd may pull us in a million different directions. When this happens it so easy to forget to take the time to sharpen your ax. We forget to take a break. We don’t take time to rest. We stop praying. We make the excuse, “Oh, my work is my prayer!”
Then we become tired, irritable, angry, frustrated, dull. We become ineffective shepherds. Who are the ones really affected? Our spouses, our kids and grandkids, our students, the people we supervise, our friends...our SHEEP!
They become sheep without a shepherd!
Let us remember that Jesus the Good Shepherd is calling all of us to be shepherds: at home, work, school, or wherever he presents an opportunity to share our faith with another person.
And don’t forget to take the time everyday to sharpen your ax. Go away with him to rest. Take the time to pray to Jesus. Read a chapter of the Bible. Say the rosary. Just close your eyes and talk to him in silence.
That is how ineffective shepherds become Good Shepherds!