July 22, 2018
by Larry Gillick, S.J.
Creighton University's Deglman Center of Ignatian Spirituality
click here for photo and information about the writer

Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Lectionary: 107

Psalms 23:1-3, 3-4, 5, 6
Ephesians 2:13-18
Mark 6:30-34
Praying Ordinary Time

Weekly Guide for Daily Prayer

Beginning Again: Talking with God

A few years ago one of my younger nephews was traveling with his siblings and their mother. While pulling out of a drive-in restaurant, with French fries on his lap, a hamburger in one hand and a malt in the other, he asked his mother, “Mom, where are we going to eat after we eat next.” He seemed not to worry about what they were going to eat next, but where after that. The “Good Shepherd” at the steering wheel assured her little lamb that he need not fear, just finish what he had in hand and lap.  My sister was feeling less of compassion and more of enjoyable patience.

In our First Reading for today, Jeremiah is feeling neither patience nor compassion, but a certain anger with the religious leaders of Israel at that time. They have been perverting authority into power and self-serving rather than servant-caring. They have been accumulating rather than dispensing. They have been driving their flock away while establishing their little kingdoms.

Jeremiah makes two profound and hopeful statements. God will appoint true shepherds, true leaders for the remnant and will feed them in their own meadows.

The second statement or prophecy concerns the descendent or offspring of the line of David who will guide God’s flock and whose name will be “The Lord Our Justice.” He will be the Pastor Shepherd who will reveal the tender tendering of the faithful God.

In our Gospel for today, Jesus takes His tired, little flock for a restful picnic across the lake. When they arrived at the deserted place, they found that it was not deserted any longer. The crowds from around and about were in need of being fed after they had eaten recently. They were hungry for food of all kinds, but especially for healings and teachings. There’s always room for a little more. They may not have even known what they were looking for; they were just looking.

When Jesus and His crew disembarked, He look at the crowd gathered like a hungry flock and He received them with “pity”? Not exactly “pity”, but the original Greek word was “Moved to His guts”. He was deeply touched, because they were gazing at Him as would a large flock of sheep, looking for food. Immediately after these verses from Mark’s Gospel, Jesus has them assume postures of receptivity and feeds them as would any good shepherd. I can imagine that this huge crowd has gathered into one, but for different reasons, having different hungers.

As they individually arrived, certain self-appointed ushers asked each of the seekers questions about what each was looking for. The ushers seated persons according to their responses.

Nearest the shore to the left was the group who had replied that they had not much to do that day and everybody seemed to be excitedly heading toward this place. They just went along with the crowd.

Next to that group, seated more toward the center, were those who wanted to get up close and impersonal with Jesus. They intended to question Him about His authority, his obscure family roots and why He seemed sometimes to violate His own religious traditions. They were hungry for a good argument.

To the right of this group were arranged younger folks who had brought their own picnic baskets and were enjoying their own self-sufficiency and smugly ate what they had brought while keeping their provisions for themselves. They came to see, hear and check out whether or not Jesus could provide even better stuff. They intended not to be moved in any way.

The ushers had done a good job arranging groups according to their intentions and desires. Jesus finally arrives with His mates and does not begin questioning each person as did the ushers. He seems to understand deeply that, no matter why they all came, He will receive them personally with deep-down humanly-felt openness. Jesus accepted them all.  His heart extended arms around each and all, without separating, excluding, judging.

The human condition in all its forms was united in the one basic hunger. Each was hungry for completion. They represent “longing.” They had not found satisfaction in fulfilling themselves. Jesus will miraculously feed their bodies.  He knows that this food will not totally satisfy, that they will want more. He taught them before breading them. He spoke to them about the sacredness of their deeper longings, their truer hungers, their fascination with answers which result in further questions.

Jesus knew that each would return to their lives again, but just maybe each was comforted in the awareness that this Person Who could teach and do wonderful things, loved them personally and collectively.  Perhaps the sceptics, the arguers, the self-isolators were moved to be a little more tender and accepting of their own human insufficiency of all kinds. Perhaps they were able to live more honestly with their doubts, fears, questions and self-poverty.

As they were leaving, trailing near the end, there was a young fellow who kept saying to no one in particular,  “Ya, but what is He going to do for us after the next feeding?”

We always want more!

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