Pastor Column, Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time: July 22, 2018
Msgr, Joseph Tracy, St. Stanislaus
Have you ever felt like an unwanted interruption in another person’s busy day? Have you ever been made to feel that your needs were inconvenient? While you and I may feel that sometimes with our parents, supervisors and perhaps a friend or two, Jesus did not consider those who tracked Him down in an “out of the way place” a bother. They were not an imposition to Him. His secluded place wan not that anymore. This gospel, I believe, speaks loudly to us in terms of our patience, compassion, and our love. That Mark the Evangelist would include this experience in particular also speaks clearly to the patience, compassion and love that Jesus’ disciples are to cultivate in order to follow Him in service to God’s people.
For sure the disciples must have been travel-weary; certainly they needed some time to recuperate and be renewed in Jesus’ presence. They had just returned from their missionary journeys. As this Gospel affirms, however, the needs of those who are like sheep without a shepherd sometimes supersede the needs and desires of the minister. Mark does not obviate the necessity of quit prayer and restorative rest. Prayer was Jesus’ reservoir where He would find the strength to serve, the insights of His preaching, and the courage to persevere. Prayer would also empower the disciples, but as the scriptures today challenge those who serve others to be readily available – in spite of weariness, despite any inconvenience, despite any pre-planned schedule.
Jesus was moved by compassion for the crowds. Rather than irritation, Jesus allowed love to guide His actions. His caring compassion helped Jesus look beyond the crowds who pressed upon Him. Why? Because they were like sheep without a shepherd. The image conjures up the aimlessness and wandering that characterized the Israelites on their first journey through the desert, or during those times when their Kings had failed them. Just as God intervened in those times on their behalf, so Jesus gives Himself to ease the needs of the crowds. Through action and teaching, Jesus helped the sheep that approached Him find direction, meaning, and inspiration for their lives. Let us all pray that our lives be in accord with God’s will and God’s way, that Jesus’ teaching continues to direct and inspire us, 21st century followers of Jesus.