Today’s Gospel: Mark 6:30-34
I have owned a guitar since I was in my late thirties. It was a birthday gift from my wife. Two decades later, I still knew only four or five chords.
When I retired, I vowed that I would really buckle down and learn. Two years later, I still knew only four chords, but I could play them in a faster sequence. In the last few months, I have finally started to gain some momentum. I started back at square one, taking a little time out of each day to practice.
It may seem odd to take up a skill like guitar at a time when my fingers are getting stiffer and my memory is getting shorter. I know I will never be another Jimi Hendrix or Chet Atkins.
So why do it?
One reason is that I have a little time I can spare to learn; the other is it gives me a much deeper appreciation of music, guitar music in particular. Guitar parts I never paid attention to before now stand out. I find myself marveling at the tone and technique of players that I had not appreciated before.
Going through online lessons and workbooks to learn songs and scales have helped me appreciate how different songs are constructed. A couple of guitar exercises I have picked up recently are called turnarounds. What’s a turnaround? They are hard to explain, but easy to recognize once they are pointed out to you. (The opening bars of Buddy Holly’s “That’ll be the Day” is a good example.) Often found in American music like ragtime, jazz, and blues, the turnaround is a phrase, one or two bars long, that provides a break after one set of verses before leading you to the next. It’s sort of a musical way of saying, “Get ready to listen to this…”
Just as learning guitar has helped me appreciate music in a broader context, participating in weekly Bible Study has helped me appreciate scripture in a broader way as well. In particular, I find I am able to get much more out of daily and weekly readings at Mass. I am now much better at appreciating the connections among the readings in a particular Mass, and now, after a few years of Bible study, I have come to a greater appreciation of how readings are structured across weeks, months, and seasons.
In the past, I would have heard or read this Sunday’s Gospel and thought, “Well, nothing really happened, did it?” Last Sunday, we had this great passage from Mark that describes the sending forth of the Apostles with that great line about shaking the dust of the village off of their feet if they were ill-received. Next Sunday, we get to hear one of the great stories of the Gospels, the miracle of the loaves and fishes. In today’s Gospel, Jesus and the Apostles see a crowd starting to gather, they get in a boat, they go away, and they come back. What was that all about?
It’s a turnaround.
Rather than going directly from one major event to another three weeks in a row, the Church takes a moment, just as Mark did in chapter 6, and Jesus does in this passage. Jesus simply goes out with his Apostles for some reflection, turns around and comes back. When he returns, he is moved by pity for the multitude for they were like sheep without a shepherd.
Why did Jesus consider the multitude to be like sheep without a shepherd? Did he not regard himself as their shepherd?
Jesus, I pray that I will always know my place in your flock, that I will hear your call, know your voice, and follow you always.
We thank our friends at The Word Among Us for providing our gospel reflection team with copies of Abide In My Word 2015: Mass Readings at Your Fingertips. To pray the daily gospels with this wonderful resource, visit The Word Among Us.
Copyright 2015 Kirk Whitney