Reflections on the Readings
Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 19, 2009, Year B
The Seventh Sunday After Pentecost
By Dennis Hankins
...He had compassion on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he began to teach them many things. (Mark 6:34)
A throng of people sought to join Jesus and his apostles in the deserted place. It was to be a retreat for only Jesus and his apostles. Yet something about being alone with Jesus held great attraction for those following him. Seeing such a gathering, Jesus is moved with compassion. He looks upon the five thousand or so with deep love, and begins to teach them many things. Don't you wish you could have been there?
Sheep without a shepherd. Were they intruding? Could Jesus have said, "Please, not today. We're too tired. Come, come back tomorrow and I will receive you then. I've got some special things to say to you, but it can wait until tomorrow." No, a thousand times no.
We learn from today's Gospel there are no intrusions to grace. "Come unto me all you are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest." Every outcast, every broken heart, every sin infested life, has an open door to Jesus. Jesus looks upon people with compassion.
It is to the Church, the sheep fold, that all may come. We the image bearers of the shepherd of souls are to welcome the stranger and treat the unworthy as our brother. It is here, the place of green pastures where the weary may find refreshment for their soul. Into the tranquil waters of baptism and to the table of the Lord, may the guilty and sin broken of humanity come and meet Jesus, the lover of souls.
It is to the Church Jesus invites all the weary and worn of the earth, to come and be restored. It is here, within the Church, where all the broken and battered and bruised of two millennia have found a personal relationship with the God of all love. It is here where mercy is experienced in the confessional. It is here where the lepers of Calcutta have found compassion. It is here where the misfits of society have found true friendship. It is here where the Mary Magdalenes of the world have found true love.
Just like the arms of Jesus which always remain open, so do the doors of the Church. Through them may come the weak, the weary, and the wayward. All who are lost, or little, or lonely are welcome to the divine embrace. It is here, within the Church where the saint and the sinner find the same welcome. Here where love is mingled with mercy may the forgotten, the forsaken, and the faithless be anointed with the oil of gladness and be filled with joy unspeakable.
I can hear Jesus teaching this great gathering, telling them the great love the Father has for them. His voice wafts over the people like an ocean of mercy. Hearing what is almost too good to be true, they hang on to his every word as if life, their life depends on what he says. Throughout the whole day, they listened, asked questions, and found real answers about a kingdom not of this world. Then it got late. Real late. Another kind of hunger was setting in. But that's next week's Gospel.
Let us pray: Gracious God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, ever loving and merciful, be all glory and praise. May a new outpouring of the Holy Spirit descend upon us, filling us with a new love and compassion for all the peoples of the world. Amen.