July 17, 2018 by
David Jackson in
Reflections on Sunday Gospels
INTRODUCTION: In the first reading Jeremiah speaks about good shepherds and bad shepherds. Pay attention to what the bad shepherds do and what the good shepherds do. God says he will shepherd his sheep. The first reading ends with a promise that a descendant of David will come who will shepherd the sheep. He will receive the name “The Lord our Justice.” In the Gospel we see that Jesus is the Good Shepherd.
In last Sunday’s Gospel Jesus sent the apostles. In this Gospel they have returned. Jesus is concerned for the Apostles, “come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.” There is so much coming and going that they couldn’t eat. “So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place.” But their best laid plans go awry because when they get to the place they set out for, people had arrived there ahead of them. Jesus response is to feel for the people and to teach them many things. In Mark’s Gospel this teaching will be followed by the multiplication of the loaves.
Jesus is a person of concern and compassion. There are many examples. In today’s passage we have the example of Jesus being willing to interrupt his journey and adjust his plans according to new events. Two Sundays ago we heard the story of the interruption of Jesus’ journey to help Jairus. He stops and cares for a sick and frightened woman. I’m afraid compassion today has suffered at the hands of “shepherds who mislead”. If you are led by a pastor who supports President Trump, I believe you are being led by a “misleading shepherd.” The Gospel today ends: he began to teach them many things. Many pastors I’m afraid contort and contradict the teachings of Jesus. The popularity of the prosperity Gospel is a clear example. One commentator wrote: “Ordinary good people are disappointed because they do not see in us the compassion of Jesus. This is a clearly a call to self examination.
This Gospel passage is a good example of the way the Gospel writers tell the story of Jesus in somewhat different ways. According to Mark the reason for Jesus and the disciples to go apart is because they had just returned from their first missionary journey. Jesus evidently wanted to have some leisure time to hear about what happened and for the apostles to recover from their efforts.
According to Matthew the story is in a different setting. In Matthew Jesus has just heard of the death of his relative John the Baptist. Matthew says: “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in boat to a deserted place by himself.” In Matthew this incident is followed by the crowds gathering, Jesus healing and then feeding them.
So we have the contrast that in Matthew Jesus goes apart by himself to deal with the death of his friend John the Baptist. In Mark he goes with the apostles to process their experience of preaching. In Matthew Jesus is a God of compassion but he heals the sick. In Mark he teaches the people many things.
1) We too go apart for different reasons. A death of a loved one is such a reason. We sometimes go apart to process something wonderful that just happened in our life. Do I find time to go apart? What are the reasons for which I find time alone? What is it that refreshes and renews me? Do I process better alone or with someone?
2) Do we in any way have a rhythm of working and then going apart? We hear of burn out. We have seen people who are exhausted. We meet and come into contact with people that are haggard and distraught. What causes people to get like that? How am I experiencing life right now? At another extreme are people who are lazy. If I am constantly putting things off and never getting things done I can become overwhelmed. The Catholic tradition has retreat days, days of recollection. We have Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, Acts retreats. Some parishes have what they call desert days.
3) On a slightly different note, this Gospel passage raised for me the question as to whether Jesus was one of those persons who couldn’t say no. Am I that kind of person? Do I do the necessary things to take care of some of my own needs so that I will have more to offer my family, friends, co-workers? Is there anything in my family, friends, or work environment that I should try to change to make for a better and healthier living environment?
4) I love the way that Jesus is able to feel the needs of people, respond to them, heal, teach, feed. Do I believe that Jesus treats me the same way? St. Vincent de Paul believed that only if we believe we are loved by God can we reach out to others in need of God’s love. Can I sense with compassion the needs of others and respond?
5) Who do I consider the sheep without a shepherd today? For me they are the searching and confused. Some have pursued paths which have led them away from God and from others. Parents are worried sick over the direction of a son or daughter. Persons who have lost their job and are out of work for a long time suffer much. Some people feel they can depend only on themselves.
We have the example of Jesus to imitate.