Sunday, August 2, 2020

What Do You Need? (A Reflection for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time)

Wally and I were invited to share a reflection on the readings for Mass this Sunday, August 2, 2020, at From His Heart, our parish blog.

I usually think of myself as Jesus when I read the Gospel: the one who's always right, who intuitively knows everyone's motivations, whose righteous anger is always justified.

In this week's Gospel reading, Jesus is trying to get some time alone: 

"...he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns." (Matthew 14:13) 

Poor Jesus. The clamoring crowds won't leave him alone! Poor Jesus. Poor me. Poor Jesus. Poor me. 

It wasn't until Wally and I read through all of the Scriptures for this Sunday that I realized, oh, Charlene, you've got it wrong. You are not Jesus. You are not the Eternally Patient One who is thrilled to see people chasing you into your solitude. (Just ask my kids.)

I'm the crowd that seems to ever pester Jesus, audaciously showing up whenever I please with an armful of questions, hurts, and concerns: Jesus, why is this happening? Jesus, what should I do? Jesus, where is the justice? Jesus, my friend needs healing. Jesus, I'm hungry. 

While it sounds annoying, we can see repeatedly in this Sunday's Scriptures that God loves it when we show up unannounced, honest, and empty-handed: 

"The Lord is near to all who call upon him, to all who call upon him in truth." (Psalm 145:18)

"Come to the water! … Come, receive grain and eat… Come, without paying and without cost… Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life." (Isaiah 55:1-3)

Jesus doesn't want to be left alone. He welcomes our clamoring, reaching, calling out at all hours:

"What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? ...neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature..." (Romans 8:35-39)

And what does Jesus do for the crowd that chases after him into his solitude? 

"...his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick." (Matthew 14:14)

Jesus' disciples suggest he send them away:

"...it is already late; dismiss the crowds…" (Matthew 14:15)

But no, Jesus invites the crowd to stay with him into the night. He tells them to sit down in the grass and get comfortable. Then He miraculously multiplies what little they have—2 loaves and 5 fish—and feeds more than 5,000 people like it's Thanksgiving dinner.

Whether we're thirsty, fearful, poor, hopeless, hungry, or dissatisfied—all needs that are mentioned in this Sunday's readings—may the Responsorial Psalm bring us hope:

"The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs." (Psalm 145:16)

What do you need from Jesus? Chase him into solitude; He welcomes you.

"Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life." (Isaiah 55:3)

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