16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
The verse we hear in this Sunday’s Gospel concludes the story Mark began in 6:7-13 in which Jesus sent the Twelve out to minister, two by two. Their ministry saw amazing success; they accomplished through the Lord, what no mere human could apart from God. When they return Jesus suggests that they go to a deserted place to take time out to rest and eat.
However, by the time they arrive to the “deserted place” the ever-present multitude greeted them with a host of expectations. From a horizontal, human viewpoint, the mass of people looked like a multitude of burdens. No doubt a few disciples said, “Let’s keep sailing.” But Jesus saw something different. The Good Shepherd saw aimless, vulnerable sheep.
Jesus used this incident to teach his Apostles – and us – something that would impact their understanding of ministry for the rest of their lives. Explicit mention that they had no time to eat prepares for next Sunday’s narrative when, ironically, the disciples will not eat but will instead serve the hungry.
However, before the feeding (next week’s Gospel) is the teaching. We are told this week that Jesus began to teach the vast crowd many things. As we know from every Mass, teaching and feeding are not in opposition. We are called on to realize that the teaching of Jesus handed down to us in the Gospels is as important for life and sustenance as the bread in the wilderness was for the Exodus generation. “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.” (Mt 4:4)
And, as the Psalmist tells us: The Lord, our shepherd, spreads the table before us. Be nourished at the table of his word!
Director of Adult Formation