Intimacy is true when fruitfulness is intended.
A good conversation, a romantic experience, a consoling prayer and other forms of intimacy have several important aspects. The more that there is intimacy, the more two centers, two vulnerable truths intersect. This usually results in excitedly peaceful and mutual resignation. These are important, but the essential element is the “afterness” or creational fruitfulness which extends beyond the intimate couple or group.
In prayer, the object is not to feel good, or have insightful glimpses, but to be freed to extend the relationship experienced in prayer to the creative relationships of our day. A good conversation does not stop with the verbal sharing, but those who did stop talking are sent by each other to continue more freely the conversations of their lives.
Jesus met people, taught them, healed them, fed them and then invited them to go beyond that experience while offering His touch through their own. In short, intimacy moves us to continue living more intimately.
We hear a two-part oracle in today’s First Reading. Jeremiah takes out after the religious leaders, (shepherds) who have not fed nor led the people of Israel according to their traditions. The people have been sent, therefore, into exile as a punishment. This sets up a second prediction which is hopeful and personal and is meant to announce the coming of the Messiah.
God promises to raise up an offspring from the lineage of King David. He will shepherd wisely and with Justice as His title. This descendant of David will gather, tend and bring to fruitfulness the people established again on their holy and promised land.
I once was sitting in the middle of a lake in northern Wisconsin on a pontoon boat doing crossword puzzles with a Jesuit companion. A fast-moving boat approached and came along side and one of the occupants asked if we would mind having a talk. My first response was whether or not he knew a five letter word for a Spanish drinking gourd, but I thought better of that. My friend asked about what they wished to discuss. We thought fishing or where to find a good beach. They wanted to talk about scripture! They told us they had heard we were Jesuit priests on vacation. We affirmed the vacation part quite quickly. That did not deter them one bit. They even had brought their texts.
Jesus in today’s Gospel was more welcoming and compassionate than we were that afternoon and the other day they showed up. Not unlike the people who were seeking Jesus and His nourishing teachings, these two were bent on proving us wrong or at least uninformed. Jesus was so available to boundary-crossers.
The Apostles had done much and well, and Jesus wanted to have a little vacation-Bible school. The class certainly got larger and He, the Shepherd, was moved from His deepest self to care for the lost and hungry. He taught them many things and in the verses following those which we hear, Jesus creates a bread and fish picnic for them. Next week we will hear a similar narrative from the Gospel of John relating the actual feeding.
We come to the Eucharist to be met and fed by the same nourishing shepherd. We are not interrupting His tranquility, but actually allowing Jesus to render us tranquil, cared-for and then our being sent to be what we receive. Jesus, especially at the Eucharist, is the Sacred Presence of the availability of God. We do stray and seek for nourishment in many fields, God reverences our freedom, but always seeks us through the opportunities within our wanderings.
Oh, those fellows in the other boat have not returned in the past three summers. Perhaps as with the people of today’s Gospel, they got the message, if a bit slowly.
“The Lord, the gracious, the merciful, has made a memorial of his wonders; he gives food to those who fear him” -Ps. 111, 4-5
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