18th Sunday - homily
I will be away this week and resume posting next week.
Some of us –maybe most of us - have been in this situation, but I would like all of us to imagine the situation where we’ve just received some bad news. We’ve just heard the news that a family member or close friend has died. We can imagine the pain and sorrow, the grief and mourning we’d feel right away. The first several moments would be filled with such sadness and tears.
Those of us who experienced this should have picked up on the first line from the Gospel because this is exactly the situation Jesus is in because he’s just heard the news that his cousin, John the Baptist, has died. We can imagine that Jesus was very sad and wanted to grieve. He “withdrew to a deserted place” to be alone. He wanted to pray; he wanted to grieve. But, the crowd followed him to the deserted place! They wouldn’t leave him alone. They wouldn’t give him a moment’s peace. They were hungry for Jesus and his ministry. No one else could help them like he could. So, they continued to pester him, they continued to ask him to help them.
How did Jesus respond to them? Was it as many of would have responded – with probably a rude or angry response to people pressing in on us? No, Jesus has quite the opposite response. In his grief and sorrow, Jesus sees the “vast crowd” and “his heart was moved with pity” for them. They should be moved with pity for him, and he’s the one who is moved with pity for them. In Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has pity on the people because “they are like sheep without a shepherd”. He takes one look at them and realizes that they need him. There is no one else who can help them.
So, he takes pity on them. He cures their sick. He feeds them to the point where they are “satisfied”. There are many things we learn from the Gospel story; one of them is that when God gives, He gives in abundance. Even in his grief, Jesus gives to them and they are satisfied.
We can’t be too harsh on the crowd. We can’t be judgmental of them. We are the crowd. We who follow Jesus are the crowd. We who hunger for Him are the crowd. We, too, pester him. We, too, constantly go to God and ask Him to help us. And, this is good! The fact that the crowd and we are constantly following Jesus is good. It shows our hunger for Him.
In a few minutes, Jesus will do the same thing for us that he did for the crowd. He will take bread, say the blessing, break the bread, and give it to us through his priest. He will feed us to the point where we are satisfied. Those of us who hunger for him he will feed with his body. Those of us who thirst for him he will give drink with his blood. He continues to feed us who hunger for him. He will satisfy us. Jesus continues to feed us who hunger and thirst for him.