19 Jul 2015
“[Jesus] said to them, ‘Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.’” (Mark 6:31) In the name …
It would be so cool if instead of today’s Gospel writing it was a Gospel video. I would love to be able to watch the video the first time and focus on Jesus. It would be like that drawing on your song sheet of Jesus talking with the people. He never seemed to tire. He never seemed to think about Himself. Not only on the cross, but throughout His life, Jesus gave everything He had to anyone who asked. Last Sunday we heard that the disciples were sent out “two by two” to prepare the way for Jesus. This Sunday we are told of their return. Our small group of 13 is exhausted. Jesus tries to sneak away with them to rest for a short while. Instead, they arrive at their supposed “deserted place” and thousands of people are already there waiting for His arrival. His tank is empty, but everything changes, says the Bible, the moment “he disembarked and saw the vast crowd.” (Mark 6:34) Their needs – our needs – trumped His. It was like expecting a vacation and then getting that last minute call to come back into work. I would grumble; from Jesus nothing but compassion.
But after I watched the video of Jesus the first time, I would then like to watch it again, but this time I’d like to try and concentrate on the faces of His disciples. Were they as enthusiastic as Jesus was when relaxation turned into yet another encounter with a mob of people needing something more? While Jesus spoke, were they listening or were they just waiting for the people to leave? I ask these questions because that would be the normal human response and these are normal human beings. Next week the church takes us from reading Mark’s Gospel to John’s so we can hear his account of the feeding of the five thousand. I wonder if the church does this to present us a much nicer picture of this grand miracle because in Mark the story has some rough edges.
After today’s Gospel selection ends, Mark tells us, “By now it was already late.” (6:35) There’s tension in those few words. I have heard of other people with daughters. There were years when they could never arrive on time anywhere, and they would stew as time passed by. That’s what I hear in the words of Mark’s Gospel. I visualize the disciples checking their sundials time and time again as Jesus just keeps going. He’s tireless; they’re not. The disciples finally interrupt Jesus and say, “‘Dismiss them.’” Send them away. When the disciples returned from going out “two by two” and they were in need of rest, Jesus agreed and they sailed off in search of their deserted place. But this time it’s different. This is a teaching moment for Jesus. When the disciples thought they had nothing more to give, when they thought they had done all that they humanly could, when they interrupt Jesus and tell Him to send the people away to go search for food to eat, He says to them instead: “‘Give them some food yourselves.’” (Mark 6:37)
This had to be just about the breaking point. Not only did they already imagine themselves on empty. Jesus now expected them to feed thousands of people. So say you’re expecting to go away on vacation. The refrigerator is empty in anticipation. There’s no food in the house. Then the vacation plans are thrown out the window and you’re called back to work. That’s not the best feeling in the world. Imagine that feeling and then hearing on top of that, “Honey I’m coming home late tonight with the others from the office. When can you have dinner ready?” Do you scream obscenities into the phone or just hang up and go to bed? Well, what did the disciples feel like doing when Jesus asked them to feed these thousands of uninvited people who had already ruined their time of rest and recuperation? All they had brought for provisions for their short time away and alone were five loaves of bread and two fish. From this they were supposed to feed this mob of people?
Well, you know how the rest of the story goes. This is definitely a miracle story that ranks right up there with the most famous. But it’s also a teaching moment. When these 12 good and faith-filled men thought they could do nothing more, that when they had gone out “two by two” they thought they had used up everything in the tank, Jesus showed them that often times there’s more there than we first expected. I don’t know if you still watch Seinfeld reruns like I do, but there was one episode where Kramer and the guy from the car dealership wanted to see how far past empty they could drive a car. Long after the other guy thought there was nothing left, they kept going. I think the Gospel is telling us that we can, if we look, find that we are capable of doing more than we thought possible, and that when we turn it over to Jesus, we can do absolutely amazing things.
After Mass we’re going to talk about edible landscaping. This is about a few people with the idea of taking available land and turning it into a source of good food for neighbours and people in need. They take that idea and share it with community organizations and houses of God such as ours. And hopefully amazing things can happen with a little bit of vision, a little bit of work and a little bit of faith. This can be replayed over and over again in all sorts of ways. I was very proud, for example, of our Parish Committee this past week for offering our hall to a newly forming Narcotics Anonymous group who may not even be able to pay us for this service at least in the beginning, but the Committee looked past that and wanted to support these people in need. We’re also trying to revitalize our SOCL program so that our older young people can help us help others. This is what it looks and feels like when we trust in Jesus enough so that we can do more than we thought we could. May Jesus continue to help us see what is possible, and for this we pray in His name. Amen. (+)
Fr. Randolph Calvo