July 26, 2015 - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel - Mark 6: 1 - 15
This Gospel passage in Mark takes place after to significant events. The first is that word reached Jesus about the death of his cousin John the Baptist. He is the one who leapt in his mother's womb when Jesus' mother visited her after the Annunciation, who boldly prepared the way for Jesus and then humbly stepped aside as he pointed out Jesus, the lamb of God. The news of John's tragic death no doubt struck the tenderness of the humanity of Jesus. The second is the return of the Apostles from their first mission and their desire to tell Jesus all that had happened. So Jesus tells them that it is time to go on a retreat to a deserted place. There they could talk, mourn and pray.
The crowds had no time or respect for Jesus and the Apostles desire to go off alone. Jesus response to this is beautiful. He is tuned into the immediate need, that they needed food. The apostles point out the problems of where to get food for they were in a deserted place, and how to pay for it. The only food is five loaves of bread and two fish. Jesus took the loaves and fishes and gave thanks and distributed it. There was more than enough for the five thousand followers to eat, and they ended up with twelve baskets of leftovers.
This Gospel gives us two important lessons. The first is to accept the invitation of grace. There are times when we make all sorts of plans of what we are going to do, whether it be for a day or some long term plan for our lives, and something happens that forces us to change these plans. We can respond with frustration or even anger. Jesus had neither when the crowds changed his plans for a retreat, he responded by giving them his full attention and serving their most basic need. There is a lesson for us to do the same. Look upon the unexpected changes as invitations to grace and allow the Lord to work through us. This is not easy because it involves our accepting a change or changes we hadn't planned on, but when we accept these invitations of grace we experience God's presence in the most beautiful ways.
The second is trust. There are times in our lives when we are called upon to do some task or service that we don't think we are capable of doing. Using the parish as an example maybe you are asked if you would be a lector, or take communion to the shut-ins, or teach Religious Ed. Maybe it is to assume leadership in a parish group or be on some special committee. Your initial inclination could be that you aren't capable of doing it and you try to graciously decline. However, the pastor or other leaders persist in encouraging you to take this new thing on. Picture yourself as the loaves and fish and place yourself into the hands of Jesus and ask for his blessing, and say "yes". Just as there was more than enough to eat of the loaves and fish, when we place ourselves, and the little we have, into the hands of Jesus we can find ourselves doing things we never imagined we could do. This involves not only a particular place like our parish, but rather our heart and willingness to trust in every aspect of our lives. When we entrust ourselves to the Lord we might truly experience a miracle of multiplication of our time and talents in our lives.
Fr. Killian Loch, O.S.B.