When a child is startled or scared, what does that child usually do?
That kid runs to mom or dad, or at least calls out for them. Or perhaps rushes over to grandma’s or grandpa’s lap.
The child finds security and safety in parents and grandparents. In the arms of mom or dad, or a grandparent, everything will be okay.
I remember as a kid feeling particularly safe whenever I rode in the car with my dad. We lived in Peru where traffic laws in the 80s were less than suggestions. I can still conjure up within me that feeling of knowing my dad was in charge and that everything would be okay.
Those of us who have lost one parent, or perhaps both, have experienced the need to speak with them whenever facing a tough decision or an unexpected turn of events. Even as adults, the presence of parents provides us with a safety net. We are still children when in the presence of our parents, regardless of our age. I have heard from adults who have already lost both parents that a sense of being orphans sometimes pervades. A sense of being now all by yourself to face the world.
The presence of Jesus in Galilee awakened a frenzy in the people of the villages along the Sea. The Gospel passage today describes how Jesus withdrew in a boat to deserted place by himself after hearing of the death of his cousin John. Jesus wants some alone time… but what happens? The crowds follow him, chase him down, they would not leave him alone. This scene reminds me of my sister who has three young children, the oldest five years old. My sister hardly gets any alone time… and seems to be summoned by her kids at all times.
The crowds are hungering for Jesus because in his words and actions they find security and safety. There is something different about him. Jesus does not reject them, but rather “when he saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.”
I have always been intrigued and consoled by Jesus’ reaction: he was moved with pity for them.
Have you ever felt that feeling swell up from deep within your heart when you see someone you love experience pain or loss? A pity that arises from knowing there is a grave need, and that you want to desperately console the person who is suffering?
In their need, Jesus was moved. He did not remain indifferent. He healed the sick and fed the crowd. Jesus provided them with words and actions of safety and consolation. No wonder they were chasing him down.
Saint Paul asks a question that is good to remember this year that has brought about so much turmoil and uncertainty to all of humanity: “What will separate us from the love of Christ?” and he answers, “For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. He calls you and me to follow him. For the thirsty to receive water, and for those without money to receive plenty. We go to Him in our need, he takes pity on us, and gives us the things we need to carry on.
One of the most humbling realities of being a priest is that Jesus places us priests (and the religious too) in situations where we can truly be Jesus for others. To be the hands and mouth of Jesus when people are struggling and suffering. To bring light in the darkness, and hope to the despairing. To have a heart of a priest means to recognize other people’s needs and to reach out as Jesus did. The life of a priest and religious is fulfilling and joyful because we are working hand in hand with Jesus, bringing the healing, safety and peace that only Jesus can give.
For the young men and women here today, do not hesitate if your heart too moves with pity for those in need. That is Jesus at work in your heart, and He may be calling you to a life of fulltime-dedicated service in the Church.
We are all called to find comfort in Jesus, and to extend to others that same comfort we find in Him. Pray today, that through the presence of Jesus among us, His body and blood, we may we find the comfort we seek and be empowered to share it with others.
Picture is mine, all rights reserved. Sea of Galilee.
18th Sunday of Ordinary Time Year A