The old cliché; “The more things change the more they stay the same” holds true in today’s Gospel message. Jesus had been drawing huge crowds of followers as a result of his generosity. He had been healing many people of various sicknesses and deformities and his reputation spread like wildfire. The crowds were pressing in on him practically crushing him.
So he told the apostles to get a boat ready because he was going to distance himself from the crowd. There is a bit of a paradox involved in his reaction. He had come to establish a Kingdom for all people. Now when they came not only from Judea and Jerusalem, but even from Idumea and beyond the Jordan from pagan territories like Tyre and Sidon, he retreats.
Jesus distancing himself had nothing to do with their following him but with their motives for coming after him. Was it for the Good News and to belong to his Kingdom, or was it for what he could do for them? I think he realized it was for the material, physical, here-and-now benefits, he could provide for them. For many, the Good News, his Kingdom or the life to come really didn’t interest them.
To the crowds, Jesus was a miracle worker. They believed he came to provide for their temporal needs. But as his name, Jesus, signifies, he came to save them from their sins and to provide them with eternal glory. It’s amazing! The unclean spirits recognized the paradox. They acknowledge “You are the Son of God.” But many of the miracle seekers had no idea who he was and cared even less.
Little has changed regarding the motivation of so many in our own day. People are still motivated to follow, but only with reservations and conditions. How often one hears: “I don’t go to Mass any more. I don’t get anything out if it.” Or, notice how many people will believe only what secular history can verify. Or, analyze why many will accept only what scientific experiments can prove possible.
Just as Jesus distanced himself from the miracle seekers, we sometimes imagine that the Lord distances himself from us. He allows us to experience this pseudo separation to enable us to reflect and determine whether the separation is from him or from his gifts and blessings. It’s embarrassing at times to discover what really motivates us. The things we do or fail to do, be they good or bad, are important, but our motives for acting or failing to act may well be more important. May our dominant motive always be that of the Response for today’s Psalm; “Here am I Lord, I come to do your will.”
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