Daily Gospel Reflection for January 7, 2014

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Today’s Gospel: Mark 6:34-44

“When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them.”

The gospel today is a window into the very heart of Jesus. Jesus is moved with pity for so many people who are “like sheep without a shepherd.” Pity is compassion or sorrow at the misfortune of others. This emotion is at the heart of Jesus’ earthly existence, as we just celebrated at Christmas: he came to us in the incarnation, taking flesh through the holy maiden, Mary, so that he could be with us, share our sorrows and the many needs and limitations of this life. The greatest joy of our faith is that God became human out of compassion, to lift us out of all sin, misery and sorrow.

In this gospel it is enlightening and consoling to see that Jesus takes action out of this compassion he is feeling: he teaches and feeds the people. This demonstrates that “the crowd,” that is, all of us, suffer from two kinds of needs, the need for spiritual food and the need for material food. When we speak of spiritual food, it refers to the deep need within every human person to know: What is the meaning of my existence? Do I matter in the great scheme of things? What is the highest good and how can I find it? These questions are all summed up in one desire, the desire to know and love the One who created us.

When Jesus teaches the crowd, he is meeting their spiritual needs by teaching them of the living God, a loving Father who has a purpose for their lives and who invites them to enter the wonder and joy of the Kingdom of God, a here-and-now reality, not a far-away dream. But Jesus also has compassion on the physical needs of the crowd. When the disciples tell him the day is late and he should send the people away to buy food for themselves, he challenges them, “Give them some food yourselves.” His compassionate heart does not want to send them away weak and unfed. Furthermore, the Lord also insists that his followers learn to share in his compassion and respond to the needs of others.

This gospel inspires gratitude, as the Lord’s care for each of us is unmistakable. It also compels us to respond when we see people in need. Motherhood is a training ground for this. We would never send our children away to find food someplace else!

As we listen to the words of Jesus today, “give them some food yourselves,” let us ask the Lord to enlarge our hearts so that we may better love our families and also extend our love out like a growing circle of influence,  spreading like rings on a pond, to touch many with the compassion of Jesus. And may we also teach our children well to be compassionate towards others. In a culture where success is measured in one’s ability to get ahead of the pack, it is truly counter-cultural to teach our children to think of the needs of others and respond with compassion. Let us then, cultivate this virtue which the Lord exhibited in his earthly life.

Ponder:

How can you give gratitude to God today? In what ways can your expression of gratitude also be an expression of compassion for someone else?

Pray:

Lord, open my heart to see and respond to the spiritual and physical needs of those around me today. Jesus, compassionate heart of the Father’s love, make my heart more like your own. Amen.

Copyright 2014 Julie Paavola

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7 Comments

  1. I began this morning frightfully grumpy- feeling like I really need to take a sick day (from mothering- ha!) and that there isn’t enough of me to meet everyone’s needs today. Reading this helps remind me that I can be grateful for all I have and that I can ask Jesus to help me stretch my resources so there is more than enough to go around. Thanks for this reflection!

    • Hi Abbey,
      I’ve had many a day like this. It is such a gift to be a loving presence in the home even so…
      Blessings on your day!
      Julie

  2. “Motherhood is a training ground for this. We would never send our children away to find food someplace else!” A truer statement was never said. Even if the mom (like me) is a lousy cook 🙂 Thanks for your reflection today.

    • Susan,
      Well even if one isn’t a “lousy cook” it gets tiring to cook day after day. But I bet every one of us has a favorite meal our own mothers made for us and it always brings consolation. Blessings on your day.
      Julie

  3. I’ve always that verse you quoted. It reminds me that Jesus truly cares about all of us. My gratitude today means not complaining that I have the flu. I’m sure my husband appreciates that!

    • Hi Deanna,
      I battle with “not complaining” every day. It is just one opportunity after another to practice virtue! Whew!
      Blessings to you and yours,
      Julie

  4. Beautiful reflection Julie, and thought-provoking ponder questions. I seem to remember being taught to try to give thanks rather than to complain when I was little (by my parents) and it’s something that I’ve tried to cling to as a “grown up”. I try to catch myself when I’m about to mentally whine about something (as I do daily…) and to offer it as a prayer of thanksgiving instead. My “woes” are so tiny compared to the pain and suffering of those around me. One thing I really experienced on my trip to Rwanda is the sense of what is really something I “need” and something I must have to exist. I’ve been prey to consumerism in the past, and I’m trying to combat that in myself now so that I can do more for others. BUT, I fall short every day, so one consistent prayer of gratitude is for a God who is all-loving and all-forgiving… Thanks for a beautiful reflection on today’s gospel!

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