This is where we find love - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

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Home > Archbishop > Homilies > This is where we find love - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)

Do you remember the Gospel of last Sunday?

St Mark described how the apostles returned from their first taste of missionary activity. They reported with some excitement about the wonderful things that had occurred to them. St Mark mentions that things were getting hectic. He tells us that there were so many going and coming that the disciples did not have time even to eat.

Jesus then says that they should come aside and rest a while and they get into a boat to go to a lonely place along the lake. But, we are told, the people knew where they were going, set out on foot and were there on the shore as Jesus and his disciples arrived.

There is one more thing that we need to know about this moment and it is told by St Mark after he describes Jesus sending his disciples out in pairs – and that is that Jesus learnt of the execution of his cousin, John the Baptist. So he carried this tragic news in his heart. Maybe he did not even tell his excited apostles. He needed to get away from the crowds to be alone with this sadness – perhaps conscious of this as a premonition of his fate.

Then as they arrive on the other side of the lake – the apostles excited, Jesus inwardly grieving – all tired from all that has been going on – and there are the people, waiting expectantly. And St Mark comments that Jesus was filled with compassion and saw in their eyes and hearts that they were like sheep without a shepherd. They longed for his company, his wisdom, his leadership, his inspiration, his healing for the pain in their lives.

St Mark tells us that despite his own weariness, his own grief, he set to teach them at some length.

Then St Mark recounts in the next section of Chapter 6 of his Gospel that the disciples mentioned at the end of the day that it was too late for the people to return to their villages. And he fed this crowd, the five thousand of them.

In our Sunday readings this year we have been reading from St Mark’s Gospel, but today we have moved to read from St John, who tells the story of the feeding of the multitude in much more detail. So we have just read his description of this event and then over the coming weeks we will read the teaching, the sublime Eucharistic teaching, that flows from this extraordinary miracle.

Let us pause a moment here.

Look at what our Lord has done. In the midst of his own human trials, he has turned all his attention and the deep compassion of his heart to the needs of those who have come to him.

How much more then can we imagine the Risen Lord of Glory now seated at the right hand of the Father – the one who promised to be with his disciples to the end of time – how can we imagine the Lord wanting to reach into the deepest recesses of our hearts and bring a word of life and nourishment to our souls.

This happens at every Mass – he speaks to our hearts through his Word proclaimed and he comes – so humbly, in such unspectacular a fashion under the form of bread and wine – to be the nourishment of our souls.

This is the God in whom we believe, in whom we trust, to whom we give our lives in grateful love.

I cannot but reflect on the crowds of people walking around the Sea of Galilee simply to be with Jesus. Can we identify with them? Do we too sense our need to be with Jesus? Being at Mass today is clear sign of this. However, let us look into our hearts.

We can sense our need for God. We do not see how we can manage without the experience of the love and presence of God in our lives. How often have we turned to God in moments of darkness or difficulty? How many times have we poured out our hearts to the Lord when we have come to the church?

We know that our lives are so fragile. We know that we face challenges seemingly beyond our capacity to resolve. We know moments of deep sadness and deep hurt.

We cannot manage alone. We turn to God. Just like all those people who walked around the edge of the Sea of Galilee to be with Jesus.

And his response was clear. Despite his own grief and tiredness, he could see their need and responded to it.
The miracle that followed showed how much the focus of the heart of Jesus was on the needs of the people: “Where can be buy some bread for these people to eat?” He saw their need and wanted to assist them.

This story reveals the depths of the mercy and compassion in the heart of Jesus.

In his appearances to St Margaret Mary Alacoque in the latter years of the seventeenth century, he showed his heart to her – his Sacred Heart – and said, “Behold this heart which loves so much and receives so little love in return.” The heart had fire and light surrounding it. This love was burning love.

This is what we deeply know. Jesus loves humanity, and each one of us, so deeply. It is a love beyond our comprehension. But we know that this love waits for us. So we come to Mass. We come to Holy Communion. This is where we find love.

Archbishop Julian Porteous
Sunday, 29 July 2018