We pray with the sense of God’s tender care for us. A parent, a gardener, a shepherd, and many other scriptural images comfort us and call for response. We believe that we are not abandoned, but accompanied and known.
We prepare this week for the Lord’s-Day celebration by our allowing God to find us, console us, and teach us about the sanctity of our lives and the sacramentality of our actions. The Word will teach us, the Eucharist will bless us and the community will wait for our embrace.
Those in leadership of any kind are given a tremendous responsibility. Those in leadership are seldom appreciated by all those whom they guide. Jeremiah speaks in our First Reading today, to the “shepherds” or the religious and national leaders of Israel. Safe to say, God does not appreciate how they have been leading God’s flock.
Because of their idolatry and their misuse of the sacred places, the people have been driven, or exiled, away from their lands. Jeremiah, in the previous chapters, has been prophesying against the various kings of Judah and Israel. In our reading today, God, speaking through Jeremiah, foretells a change in leadership coming down from on top. God, the One and Holy, is taking over and will gather the flock back to the land of promise and will continue the increase of field and flesh. This is not all. Jeremiah, giving voice to God, foretells God’s appointing a descendant of King David, who will do what is right and just. He will deal rightly with God’s people and God’s guidance. There will be security and salvation and his name will be reflective of his mission, from God, “The Lord our justice.”
In the next two verses, which follow our reading, Jeremiah boasts that as the Israelite people swore by the name of the God Who brought them out of Egypt, in the future they will say something new. They will refer to the living God who brought them back from the “north” and everywhere else they had been dispersed. This gathering back by the Shepherd-God, will replace the first Exodus, because God has given them a second chance to be God’s holy and chosen people.
Last week’s Gospel pictured Jesus sending out His starting team to cure and comfort the people. Today we see them coming back together for a half-time rest. They gather together to talk about all they had done. Jesus invites them to retreat awhile across the lake.
Upon arrival, guess who isthere to meet them. Yes, more people who have heard all that Jesus and His apostles have been doing. Jesus upon seeing their number, their need and their faith is moved with “pity”. This word, “pity” is not exactly the same as feeling sorry for their condition, but a deeper interior movement of all His emotions which move Him to do something for them. This is His way and the way He has been instructing the Apostles, who were looking forward to a little rest and more talk about all they had done. Jesus began to “teach them many things”, not only the crowd, but the apostles as well.
About goodness, we can never have enough. The crowds ran from one side of the lake to the other to continue learning, being healed and what follows, a great feeding with bread and fish. They all must have found it difficult to leave His company.
I am a recovering sugarholic. I am doing very well these days. I was pondering recently about our taste buds. They are located somewhere in our mouths and I was speaking with a doctor-friend of mine whose specialty is the throat and esophagus. I complained a little that I would wish for taste buds further along the paths of our food so we could enjoy them longer. Perhaps food could stop off in a separate section for a period of time so we could taste all those good sweets longer and of course, give praise to the sweet Giver. Sour and tasteless things would bypass this chamber. He told me he would look into it.
I think we are “lifeaholics” too. We desire to hold on to the wonderful experiences of our being loved, cared for, fed with wisdom and inspiration. We love those highs and wish we could build “three tents” and stay wrapped up in ecstasy. Times of physical, intellectual, spiritual, and interpersonal excitement can pass as quickly as a piece of chocolate through our mouths. We want to hold on to them, or run to the other side of the lake for more.
Life, God, or friends seem unfair. The drug addict is addicted to the high and crashes more deeply upon discovering the disappointment of the end of the trip. We are on, not a trip, but a journey and as with food, which is meant for nourishing us for that journey, God gives us close-times for the other-times. The Spiritual Life is life. It is life lived as human beings were always meant to live. By our personal choices, as with the people of Israel, we can end up in various forms of exile. God keeps calling us back to the land of our humanity. Life gives us high moments of intimacy, encouragement, and favor, to keep us keeping on. We do not live at the dinner table, nor in bed, nor in church. All the Sacraments are given to us to get on with it, the journey back home.
When I received my First Holy Communion, I pressed the wafer tightly up against the roof of my mouth to keep Jesus present and the high of feeling His presence. He left me and dropped me back to earth where I belong. Jesus continues with us, finding us, moving towards us with love and encouragement, but always moves us into our life of flesh and spirit. That constant longing for good, for more, for always, is a great proof for the existence of God, Who is our Homeland.
“The Lord keeps in our minds the wonderful things he has done. He is compassion and love; he always provides for his faithful.” Ps. 111, 4-5
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