Sunday, July 22, 2012
Jesus feels compassion for the people
The Banquet of Life – Jesus invites to sharing
Mark 6, 30-34
1. Opening prayer
Lord Jesus, send your Spirit to help us to read the Scriptures with the same mind that you read them to the disciples on the way to Emmaus. In the light of the Word, written in the Bible, you helped them to discover the presence of God in the disturbing events of your sentence and death. Thus, the cross that seemed to be the end of all hope became for them the source of life and of resurrection.
Create in us silence so that we may listen to your voice in Creation and in the Scriptures, in events and in people, above all in the poor and suffering. May your word guide us so that we too, like the two disciples from Emmaus, may experience the force of your resurrection and witness to others that you are alive in our midst as source of fraternity, justice and peace. We ask this of you, Jesus, son of Mary, who revealed to us the Father and sent us your Spirit. Amen.
a) A key to the reading:
The text on which we will meditate on this 16th Sunday of Ordinary Time is brief. Only five verses. At first sight a few lines seem to be only a brief introduction to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves in the desert (Mk 6, 34-44). But if the Liturgy of this Sunday has separated from the rest and underlined these five verses, it means that they contain something very important that perhaps we would not notice if they were only used as an introduction to the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves.
In fact, these five verses reveal a characteristic of Jesus which has always struck and continues to strike us: his concern for health and the formation of the disciples, his accepting and welcoming humanity toward the poor people of Galilee, his tenderness towards persons. If the Church by means of the Sunday Liturgy, invites us to reflect on these aspects of the activity of Jesus it is on order to encourage us to prolong this same attitude of Jesus in the relationship that we have with others. During this reading we will be very attentive to the minute details of Jesus’ attitude toward others.
b) A division of the text to help in the reading:
Mark 6, 30: Revision of the apostolic work
Mark 6, 31-32: Concern of Jesus that the disciples get some rest
Mark 6, 33: People have other criteria and follow Jesus
Mark 6, 34: Moved to compassion, Jesus changes his plan and receives and welcomes the people.
c) The text:
30 The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught. 31 And he said to them, 'Come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while'; for there were so many coming and going that there was no time for them even to eat. 32 So they went off in the boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. 33 But people saw them going, and many recognised them; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them. 34 So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
3. A moment of prayerful silence
so that the Word of God may penetrate and enlighten our life.
4. Some questions
to help us in our personal reflection.
a) Which is the aspect of Jesus’ attitude which has pleased you the most and which arose greatest admiration among the people in Jesus’ time?
b) Jesus’ concern for the disciples and his concern to accept and welcome the people well: both of these are important. Which one of these prevails in Jesus’ attitude?
c) Compare Jesus’ attitude with the attitude of the Good Shepherd of Psalm 23. What strikes the most?
d) Is the attitude of our community the same as that of Jesus?
5. For those who wish to deepen more into the theme
a) The context which enlightens the text:
i) Chapter six of Mark shows an enormous contrast! On the one hand Mark speaks about the banquet of death, held by Herod with the great of Galilee, in the palace of the Capital City, during which John the Baptist was killed (Mk 6, 17-29). On the other hand, the banquet of life, held by Jesus for the people of Galilee, hungry in the desert, so that they would not perish along the way (Mk 6, 35-44). The five verses of this Sundays’ reading (Mk 6, 30-34) are placed exactly between these two banquets.
ii) These five verses underline two things:
- they offer a picture of Jesus, the Formator of the Disciples;
- they indicate that to announce the Good News of Jesus is not only a question of doctrine, but above all of acceptance, of goodness, of tenderness, of availability, of revelation of the love of God.
b) Commentary on the text:
Mark 6, 30-32: The welcoming acceptance given to the disciples
These verses indicate that Jesus formed the new leaders. He involved the disciples in the mission and he used to take them immediately to a more peaceful place so as to be able to rest and make a revision of their mission (cfr. Lk 10, 17-20). He was concerned about their nourishment and of their rest, because the work of the mission was such that they did not even have the time to eat (cfr. Jn 21, 9-13).
Mark 6, 33-34: Moved to compassion, Jesus changes his plans and receives the people
The people perceive that Jesus had gone to the other shore of the lake, and they follow him. When Jesus, in getting out of the boat, saw that crowd, he renounced to rest and began to teach them. Here we can see the abandonment in which the people were. Jesus was moved to compassion, “because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. The one who reads this parable remembers the Psalm of the Good Shepherd (Ps 23). When Jesus becomes aware that the people have no shepherd, he began to be their shepherd. He began to teach. He guides the crowds in the desert of life, and the multitude could then sing: “The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing I shall want!”
b) Extending the information:
● A picture of Jesus, the Formator
“To follow” was the term which formed part of the education system of the time. It was used to indicate the relationship between the Disciple and the Master. The relationship Master-Disciple is diverse from the relationship professor-pupil. The pupils attend the classes of the professor on a given subject. The disciples “follow” the Master and live with him. And it is precisely during this “living together” of three years with Jesus that the disciples received their formation.
Jesus, the Master is the axis, the centre and the model of formation. In his attitudes it is a proof of the Kingdom, he incarnates the love of God and reveals it (Mk 6, 31; Mt 10, 30-31; Lk 15,11-32). Many small gestures mirror this witness of life with which Jesus indicated his presence in the life of the disciples, preparing them for life and for the mission. This was his way of giving a human form to the experience which he himself had had with the Father:
- to involve them in the mission (Mk 6,7; Lk 9, 1-2; 10,1),
- once, he reviews this mission with them (Lk 10, 17-20),
- he corrects them when they make a mistake or when they want to be the first ones (Mk 10, 13-15; Lk 9, 46-48),
- he waits for the opportune moment to correct them (Mk 9, 33-35),
- he helps them to discern (Mk 9, 28-29),
- he challenges them when they are slow (Mk 4, 13; 8, 14-21),
- he prepares them for the time of conflict (Jn 16, 33; Mt 10, 17-25),
- he sends them out to observe and to analyse reality (Mk 8, 27-29; Jn 4, 35; Mt 16, 1-3),
- he reflects together with them on the questions of the present moment (Lk 13, 1-5),
- he places them before the needs of the multitude (Jn 6, 5),
- he corrects the mentality of revenge (Lk 9, 54-55),
- he teaches that the needs of the multitude are over and above the ritual prescriptions (Mt 12,7,12),
- he fights against the mentality which thinks that sickness is a punishment from ¨God (Jn 9, 2-3),
- he spends time alone with them in order to be able to instruct them (Mk 4, 34; 7, 17; 9, 30-31; 10, 10; 13, 3),
- he knows how to listen, even when dialogue is difficult (Jn 4, 7-42),
- he helps them to accept themselves (Lk 22, 32),
- he is demanding and asks them to leave everything for his sake (Mk 10, 17-31),
- he is severe with hypocrisy (Lk 11, 37-53),
- he asks more questions than gives responses (Mk 8, 17-21),
- he is firm and does not allow himself to be deviated from the road (Mk 8, 33; Lk 9, 54-55).
This is a picture of Jesus, the Formator. The formation in the “following of Jesus” was not in the first place the transmission of the truth to be learnt by heart, but rather a communication of the new experience of God and of life which radiated from Jesus for the Disciples. The community which formed itself around Jesus was the expression of this new experience. Formation led the person to see with other eyes, to have other attitudes. It arose in them a new awareness concerning the mission and themselves. Yes, it made them place their feet side by side to those who were excluded. In some, it produced, “conversion” because they accepted the Good News (Mk 1, 15).
● How Jesus announces the Good News to the multitude
The fact that John was in prison impels Jesus to return and to begin the announcement of the Good News. It was an explosive and creative beginning! Jesus goes around and through all of Galilee: the villages, the towns, the city (Mk 1, 39). He visits the communities. Finally he changes residence and goes to live in Capernaum (Mk 1, 21; 2, 1), a city on the cross roads to several roads, and this facilitated the message to be diffused. He practically does not ever stop, he is always on the road. The Disciples go with him everywhere. In the fields, along the streets, on the mountain, in the desert, in the ship, in the Synagogues, in the houses. And they go with great enthusiasm!
Jesus helps the people, serving them in many ways: he drives out the evil spirits (Mk 1, 39), he cures the sick and those who are possessed by the devil (Mk 1, 34), he purifies those who are excluded because of some impurity (Mk 1, 40-45), he accepts the marginalized and relates and eats with them (Mk 2, 15). He announces, calls and convokes. He attracts, consoles and helps. This is a passion which is revealed. Passion for the Father and for the poor and abandoned people of his land. There he finds people who listen to him, he speaks and transmits the Good News. Everywhere.
In Jesus, everything is revelation which fascinates or captivates him from within! He himself is the proof, the living witness of the Kingdom. In him appears that which happens when a person allows God to reign, allows God to guide or direct his life. In his way of living and acting together with the others, Jesus transformed the nostalgia into hope! All of a sudden people understood: “This was what God wanted for his people!”
And this was the beginning of the announcement of the Good News of the Kingdom which was rapidly diffused in the villages of Galilee. In a small way, like a seed, which then grows until it becomes a big tree, under which people could rest (Mk 4, 31-32). And people took care to diffuse the News.
The people of Galilee remained impressed with the way Jesus taught. “A new teaching! Given with authority! Different from that of the scribes!” (Mk 1, 22,27). What Jesus did most was to teach (Mk 2, 13; 4, 1-2; 6, 34). And this was what he used to do (Mk 10, 1). More than fifteen times the Gospel of Mark says that Jesus taught. But Mark hardly ever says what he taught. Perhaps, he is not interested in the content? It depends on what people understand by content! To teach does not mean to teach only new truths and thus people learn them by heart. The content which Jesus has to give does not only appear in the words, but also in his gestures and in the way in which he enters into relationship with the persons. The content is never separated from the person who communicates it. Jesus was a welcoming person (Mk 6, 34). He loved the people. Goodness and love which were visible in his words formed part of the content. They constitute his temperament. A good content without goodness is like spilt milk. Mark defines the content of the teaching of Jesus as “the Good News of God” (Mk 1, 14). The Good News which Jesus proclaimed comes from God and reveals something on God. In everything which God says and does, the traits of the face of God are visible. The experience which he himself has of God, the experience of the Father is visible. To reveal God as Father is the source, the content and the purpose or end of the Good News of Jesus.
6. Pray with Psalm 23 (22)
Yahweh is my shepherd
Yahweh is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
In grassy meadows he lets me lie.
By tranquil streams he leads me
to restore my spirit.
He guides me in paths of saving justice
as befits his name.
Even were I to walk in a ravine as dark as death
I should fear no danger,
for you are at my side.
Your staff and your crook are there to soothe me.
You prepare a table for me under the eyes of my enemies;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup brims over.
Kindness and faithful love pursue me every day of my life.
I make my home in the house of Yahweh
for all time to come.
7. Final Prayer
Lord Jesus, we thank for the word that has enabled us to understand better the will of the Father. May your Spirit enlighten our actions and grant us the strength to practice that which your Word has revealed to us. May we, like Mary, your mother, not only listen to but also practice the Word. You who live and reign with the Father in the unity of the Holy Spirit forever and ever. Amen.