18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 3, 2008 Year: A
Is 55:1-3; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Mt 14:13-21
HE HAD COMPASSION FOR THEM
"The Lord says this:
'Everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me,
and eat what is good,
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.'" [Is. 55:1-3]
"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will
hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or
nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things
we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor
angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to
come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything
else in all creation, will be able to separate us from
the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." [Rom. 8:35,
"When Jesus heard that Herod had beheaded John the
Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by
himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him
on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, Jesus saw a
great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said,
'This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late;
send the crowds away so that they may go into the
villages and buy food for themselves.'
Jesus said to them, 'They need not go away; you give
them something to eat.' They replied, 'We have nothing
here but five loaves and two fish.' And he said, 'Bring
them here to me.'
Then Jesus ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.
Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to
heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them
to the disciples, and the disciplines gave them to the
And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was
left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And
those who ate were about five thousand men, besides
women and children." [Mt. 14:13-21]
I was watching a video of a man who had lost his right
hand in an accident long back. He procured help from his
friends and is now able to use an electronically buffer
hand. I found the man extremely happy to use this hand
and he attempts to operate it well. I could find on his
face immense happiness and I felt a deep compassion for
this man. I entered into myself and felt how fortunate I
am having both hands. Whole day I spent praising God for
the gift of hands and at the same time I felt deep
compassion to those who have lost one or the other organ
of their body due to accidents, sickness or by birth.
Today compassion is not there among
people. Jesus felt compassion towards the flock that was
poor, miserable, helpless, sick, down trodden. Today
people have many things in their life, but we find
people complaining for things they do not have. They are
blind, and do not see what God has done to them.
It is enough to visit some hospitals to
discover how people suffer immensely due to multiple
reasons of sickness, accidents and other grave reasons.
"He had compassion for them and cured
their sick!" [Mt. 14:14] Jesus had compassion for His
flock, the restless souls that followed Him wherever He
went so that He could feed them with spiritual food that
comes from the richness of the Word of God. By answering
their calling, these hungry ones were enriched with
spiritual food that healed their souls. Through the Lord
Jesus, they received spiritual knowledge and
understanding of the mysteries of God, inclining them to
continue to desire more and more.
When facing suffering, pain, persecution,
famine or even death, where do we turn? We do as Jesus
did when He heard that Herod had beheaded John the
Baptist. We turn to God through the Lord Jesus, the only
begotten Son of God. Jesus calls us when He says, "Come
to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy
burdens, and I will give you rest." [Mt. 27:11]
The mentioning of the loaves of bread and
the fish in today's reading of the Gospel was symbolic.
They foreshadowed what was to come after the death and
glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The fish echoes
the Words of Jesus to Peter and Andrew, "Follow Me, and
I will make you fish for people." [Mt. 4:19] The bread
echoes the ministry of the priesthood in the Holy
Catholic Church. It echoes the calling of holy men to
become holy priests as instruments of God. Through these
holy men, the Church Sacraments are administered and
souls are saved.
Wider and Deeper Reflection
Has it ever occurred to you that you can only love when
you are alone? What does it mean to love? It means to
see a person, a thing, a situation, as it really is and
not as you imagine it to be, and to give it the response
it deserves as done by Jesus. You cannot love what you
do not even see.
what prevents you from seeing? Your concepts, your
categories, your prejudices and projections, your needs
and attachments, the labels you have drawn from your
conditioning and from your past experiences. Seeing is
the most arduous thing a human being can undertake. For
it calls for a disciplined, alert mind, whereas most
people would much rather lapse into mental laziness than
take the trouble to see each person and thing anew in
present moment freshness.
drop your conditioning in order to see is arduous
enough. But seeing calls for something more painful
still. The dropping of the control that society
exercises over you: a control whose tentacles have
penetrated to the very roots of your being, so that to
drop it is to tear yourself apart.
wish to understand this, think of a little child that is
given a taste for drugs. As the drug penetrates the body
of the child, it becomes addicted and its whole being
cries out for the drug. To be without the drug is so
unbearable a torment that it seems preferable to die.
this is exactly what society did to you when you were a
child. You were not allowed to enjoy the solid,
nutritious food of life: work and play and the company
of people and the pleasures of the senses and the mind.
You were given a taste for the drug called Approval,
Appreciation, Attention, the drug called Success.
Prestige. Power. Having got taste for these
things you became addicted and began to dread their
loss. You felt terror at the prospect of failure, of
mistakes, of the criticism of others. So you became
cravenly dependent on people and lost your freedom.
Others now have the power to make you
happy or miserable. And much as you now hate the
suffering this Involves, you find yourself completely
helpless. There is never a
minute when, consciously or unconsciously, you are not
attuned to the reaction of others, marching to the drum
of their demands. When you are ignored or disapproved
of, you experience a loneliness so unbearable that you
crawl back to people to beg for the comfort known as
Support, Encouragement, Reassurance. To live
with people in this state involves never ending tension:
but to live without them brings the agony of loneliness.
You have lost your capacity to see them clearly as they
are and to respond to them accurately because mostly
your perception of them Is clouded by your need to get
consequence of all this is terrifying and inescapable:
You have become incapable of loving anyone or anything.
If you wish to love you must learn to see again, and if
you wish to see you must give up your drug. You must
tear away from your being the roots of society that have
penetrated to the marrow. You must drop out. Externally
everything will go on as before, you will continue to be
in the world, but no longer of it. And in your heart you
will now be free at last and utterly alone. It is only
in this aloneness, this utter solitude, that dependence
and desire will die, and the capacity to love is born.
For one no longer sees others as means to satisfy one's
someone who has attempted this knows the terror of the
process. It is like inviting yourself to die. It is like
asking the poor drug addict to give up the only
happiness he has known and to replace it with a taste
for bread and fruit and the clean fresh morning air and
the sweetness of the water from the mountain stream,
while he Is struggling to cope with his withdrawal
symptoms and with the emptiness that he experiences
within himself now that his drug has gone. To his
fevered mind nothing can fill the emptiness except his
drug. Can you imagine a life in which you refuse to
enjoy a single word of approval and appreciation, or to
lean on someone's arm; in which you depend on no one
emotionally, so no one has the power to make you happy
or miserable any more: you refuse to need any particular
person or to be special to anyone or to call anyone your
own? Even the birds of the
air have their nests and the foxes their holes, but you
will have nowhere to rest your head in your journey
ever get to this state you will at last know what it
means to see with a vision that is clear and unclouded
by fear or desire. And you will know what it means to
love. But to come to this land of love you have to pass
through the pains of death. For to love persons is to
have died to the need for persons and to be utterly
would you ever get there? By ceaseless awareness, and
the infinite patience and compassion that you would have
for a drug addict. It will also help you to undertake
activities that you can do with your whole being,
activities that you so much love to do, that while you
are engaged in them, success or recognition or approval
simply do not mean a thing to you. It will help too if
you return to Nature: send the crowds away and go up
into the mountain and silently commune with trees and
flowers and animals and birds, with sea and sky and
clouds and stars. Then you will know that your heart has
brought you into the vast desert of solitude. There is
no one there by your side, absolutely no one. At first
it will seem unbearable, but that is only because you
are unaccustomed to aloneness. But if you manage to stay
there for a while the desert will suddenly blossom into
love. Your heart will burst into song. And it will be
When Jesus heard that Herod had beheaded
John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted
place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they
followed him on foot from the towns. When he went
ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion
for them and cured their sick.
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