Sunday, July 31, 2011

The Gospel in a Nutshell - How can you show compassion?

Mt 14: 13-21
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.
The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,
“This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages
and buy food for themselves.”
Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;
give them some food yourselves.”
But they said to him,
“Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.”
Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ”
and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven,
he said the blessing, broke the loaves,
and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.
They all ate and were satisfied,
and they picked up the fragments left over—
twelve wicker baskets full.
Those who ate were about five thousand men,
not counting women and children.

In today's gospel reading we find Jesus tired and mournful after hearing the news of the murder of John the Baptist.  The man who is constantly surrounded by crowds is seeking to be alone in his sorrow.  The crowds, however, with multiple needs and petitions follow Him.  Instead of directing His disciples to ask the crowd to please give Him some space to mourn, Jesus looks on the crowd with pity.  During the homily today, our deacon explained that the word "pity" used here was referring to more of a "compassion". 

Even during times of fatigue, of sadness or lonliness, Jesus is showing us His compassion and mercy to those in most need of help.  How many times have we said we are too tired, too short on money, too busy to help those in need?

We then get to the portion of the gospel where we hear the familiar story of the feeding of 5000 (the only one of Jesus' miracles that is told in all four gospels).  The disciples are asked to do something unbelievable, something above their own feed the large group with such a small amount of food.  We are called then, to offer our own resources, however limited they may be, so that God can turn these into miracles...miracles that can impact thousands.

Perhaps this story is told in all four gospels because it is a story we need to hear over and over again.  It is a lesson on the importance of giving when we have little, it looks forward to the Last Supper where we will see Jesus breaking and blessing bread again and it reminds us who provides for us to meet challenges we cannot meet on our own.

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