In today’s Gospel, Jesus invites the apostles to find a quiet place for some well-deserved relaxation. But the crowds rush there, and when Jesus arrives, he sees the urgent needs of the people waiting for him and ministers to them. So it seems that Jesus lets them override the less important needs of the disciples for rest and nourishment. But is that really what is occurring?
This is a meditation on this Gospel from one of my sisters:
“. . . they had no opportunity even to eat. So they went off in the boat by themselves. . . .”
Let’s imagine what happens after Jesus and his disciples leave in the boat. On the shore, as soon as the boat pulls away, word begins to spread that Jesus has left and is on his way to a certain place. People from all the towns around there get to know about it. Crowds of people begin walking to the location. In the boat, the disciples have probably brought something to eat, since they haven’t had a chance to eat until now. They must be enjoying a leisurely voyage with Jesus, eating and relaxing with him as the boat rides the gentle swells of the Sea of Galilee. Because the crowds of people arrive beforehand, Jesus and the apostles are probably not sailing or rowing the boat at any great pace.
When Jesus disembarks, a vast crowd is waiting. “. . . his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.”
So it seems that the lesson is not that Jesus sacrifices his own fundamental needs and those of his disciples to minister to the people. He does, in fact, do that many times, but perhaps what we learn here is that Jesus can satisfy every need, no matter how pressing or prosaic. Then, having had our needs fulfilled by Jesus, we must be willing to turn around and give to others, as we have received.
If you have enjoyed this meditation, you’ll find meditations on all the Gospels of Ordinary Time in: Ordinary Grace Weeks 1-17