The disciples were sent by Jesus to announce his Good News, and they return all excited. There’s no time to tell their Master all that they have done and taught. Seemingly, Jesus wants to listen to them calmly, so he invites them to go off «to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while».
The people spoil their plan. From every village they hurry to find them. That get-together planned by Jesus just for his closest disciples is not longer possible. So when they get to the place, the crowd has invaded it. How will Jesus react?
The Gospel writer describes his attitude down to the smallest detail. Jesus never lets the people bother him. He fixes his gaze on the crowd. He knows how to look, not just at the concrete persons in front of him, but also at that mass of people made up of men and women without voice, face, or any special importance. Right away compassion is awakened in him. He can’t avoid it. «He took pity on them». He brings all of them right into his heart.
Never will he abandon them. He sees them «like sheep without a shepherd»: people without guides to show the way, without prophets to hear God’s voice. That’s why «he set himself to teach them at some length», giving them time and attention in order to nourish them with his healing Word.
Someday, before Jesus our only Lord, we will need to revise how we look at and treat those crowds that are little by little leaving the Church, maybe because they don’t hear Jesus’ Gospel from us and because our discourses, communications and declarations no longer say anything to them.
Simple and good people whom we are deceiving because they don’t see Jesus’ compassion in us. Believers who don’t know where to go or what paths to follow in order to meet up with a God who is more human that the one they perceive among us. Christians who keep quiet because they know that their word won’t be taken into account by anyone important in the Church.
Some day the face of this Church will change. She will learn to act with more compassion; she will forget about her own discourses and she will sit down and listen to the people’s suffering. Jesus has power to transform our hearts and renew our communities.
José Antonio Pagola
Translator: Fr. Jay VonHandorf