Jr 23. 1-6; Ps 23; Eph 2. 13-18; Mk 6. 30-34
Homily of Fr. Paul Panaretos, S.J.
Offering What We Receive
Scriptures grace us provided we are open and do not read them according to our categories of thinking. The ancient Mediterranean people and their culture—Jesus’ kin and culture—differed from ours in many ways. I’m about to leave on vacation and rest, relax and enjoy the time with others at the ocean. I can count on an easy pace in a quiet setting, but if I need something, I can walk to a market to get it.
The less hurried place I will visit is not at all like the deserted place to which Jesus called his disciples, who returned from their mission of preaching repentance to prepare Jesus’ way. People lived in small hamlets of not many people. A town like Nazareth may have ranged from 50 to 150 people. People knew one another too well for our liking—and maybe for theirs!
Between their towns and hamlets were large open spaces, undeveloped by nature or humans. Moving through them was no walk in the park, nor was moving through them anything but hostile: no CVS, Target or Giant Eagle to get a much needed bandage, new dish or food to fill it.
Great was the need to take care and to care for children, older people as well as animals when traversing deserted places. Jesus noted necessity to enter such a place. People were coming and going in great numbers, and [Jesus and his apostles] had no opportunity even to eat. If people could be nosy and interfering in ordinary circumstances, then the comings and goings of great numbers of people probably to gawk at Jesus and his apostles would have been too much to take.
The gospel injects humor into the scene, adding, People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them. How they kept their eyes on Jesus and his followers!
Jesus responded to them all with compassion. The image of shepherd, long before Jesus and Jeremiah, was united with royal leader in the person of David, the shepherd-king. The union of shepherd and leader emphasized care for people, suffering with people—compassion. God desired all rulers of God’s people to embody compassion. Because we share in our Messiah Jesus’ royal leadership by baptism, God desires us to show compassion in all our dealings.
Compassion does not call anyone to be a doormat for others. It does call us to imitate God’s heart as much as we humans can. How do we imitate God’s heart?
First, we can do that by being in touch with God. Cultivating our relationship with our Creator and Redeemer includes allowing ourselves to be embraced by Jesus, being nourished by his word and his sacraments, aligning ourselves with Jesus’ banner of cross-leading-to-resurrection. Allowing ourselves to be embraced by Jesus, nourished by him and aligning ourselves more closely with Jesus take many forms of personal prayer, public worship and Christian service. We are fortunate that Gesu Parish and School offer us so much assistance in all those ways.
Second, we imitate God’s heart when we extend to others what God has done in and for us. Living as one reconciled by God in Jesus by their Spirit; extending to others the goodness and kindness they offer; and inviting others to enjoy what we enjoy, that access [we have through Jesus] in one Spirit to the Father. That is how we live divine love through our frail, human bodies. Christian love is not about being perfect, it’s about freeing ourselves to be led, nourished, guided and perfected by our Good Shepherd.
In your daily 15 minutes with Jesus this week, pause in the love our triune God shines on you. Ask the apostles to present you to Jesus so you may converse with him. In your words thank Jesus for his patience with you; savor one way you have enjoyed his goodness and kindness he has offered you. Ask for Jesus to help you deepen your desire to welcome his faithful love at each moment. Close your time saying slowly the prayer Jesus taught us. Praying it allows Jesus to transform us to be his apostles of reconciliation today.