Jesus and Human Need
(17th Ordinary Sunday: Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34)
Among the many forms of human suffering is the one put before us in today’s Gospel: food insecurity. In this case the situation was of short duration. Jesus responded to an immediate need on a specific occasion.
But, like Jesus, we too can ask how it is possible to respond to the needs of so many. Some of us, like Philip and Andrew, may answer that it can’t be done. But the evangelist tells us, “Jesus himself knew what he was going to do.”
Some of you reading this have experienced food insecurity, perhaps combined with anxiety over lodging, work, etc. Many have not. In which set of circumstances is the grace of God more active?
At La Salette, Mary noted that people worked on Sundays all summer. But, with potatoes, wheat, grapes and even walnuts all showing signs of blight, farmers were desperate to save what little they could. It is hard to be open to spiritual realities when material needs demand our full attention.
On the other hand, if we are so taken up with what we possess that we are unable to respond to others’ needs, it is equally hard to live in the Spirit, to grow and work and learn in community. Compassion and empathy are gifts. Do we desire them?
Jesus fed the hungry multitude because he saw their need, and he saw their need because he wanted to see it. Mary was aware of her people’s food insecurity, and she offered hope, “if they are converted.” Conversion, too, is a gift. Do we desire it?
St. Paul writes, “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” He focuses especially on unity: “one body and one Spirit.” How is this possible if some members are in dire need and other members do not help them?
Can we dare to pray for the gifts of conversion and compassion in our lives, to ask the Lord to make us like himself, willing to recognize the needs around us?
At the beginning of the Gospel we read that Jesus “saw that a large crowd was coming to him.” With little, he met the need of many. When Christians respond to others’ needs, the goal is to help them come to Christ. That was Mary’s purpose at La Salette.
Wayne Vanasse, and Fr. René Butler, M.S.