Date: Sunday, July 22, 2018
I am enjoying my back porch. This year I put out bird feeders – seeds and suet. During the summer there has been an increased number and variety of birds coming to eat but also chipmunks, squirrels and black crows. To use a word from our first reading from the prophet Jeremiah, there is a “gathering in” – it is the responsibility of the shepherd to gather the scattered flock of Israel. Because of the failure of Shepherd-Kings this task of “gathering in” will be taken on by God! This divine gathering in finds poetic expression in our Responsorial Psalm (Psalm 23): “The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; besides restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul…” St. Paul writes to the Ephesians how we have been made one by blood of Christ -- both Jew and Gentile have access in one Spirit to the Father.
The role of shepherding or gathering in is apparent in the Gospel according to St. Mark. “The apostles gathered together with Jesus.” They recount what happened on their mission preaching, driving out demons and anointing the sick. They recap and go off in a boat to a “desert” place to rest but many people anticipate their move and are waiting for them. Disembarking, Jesus sees a vast crowd and his heart is moved with pity for they are like sheep without a shepherd. “His heart is moved with pity,” in Greek, is literally earthier: “he is moved in his guts for them.” The Greek word “moved in the guts” also translates the Hebrew word for “womb” and “love.” Jesus has God the Father’s mother-like love and empathy for a child. Jesus begins to teach them many things and will feed them on two occasions -- first a Jewish multitude and then a Gentile.
When Jesus disembarks, he catches sight of the crowd. It is a moment when Jesus sees the suffering and beauty of all humanity and is moved in the depth of his being to respond with compassion. We are given such moments when we realize that nationalism and individual self-interest are secondary to our common solidarity with humanity. Later, in the Gospel according to St. Mark, a rich young man asks Jesus what he must do to be saved. Jesus looking at him with love, and says: “Go, sell what you have and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come follow me.” At this the young man’s “face fell” and he goes away sad for he had many possessions. (Mark 10: 17-22) The same decision is given to us.