16 Sunday B: Leadershiip: Disciples & People

 Michel DeVerteuil
Textual Comments
Today’s passage, like those of the last two Sundays, is an account of the ministry of Jesus and contains several messages that are important for us today. We can feel free to identify with one of the three characters in the story:
–  Jesus,
–  the apostles,
–  the crowds.
Verse 30.  Jesus highlights the contrast between two aspects of teaching:
– “what we do”
– “what we teach”.
These are two distinct realities and in our teaching we should reflect on both. We need to share how we feel about things – within ourselves, with one another, and finally with our Lord and Saviour, Jesus Christ.

What we teach must include how we relate to what we have experienced. The emphasis is usually quite different and does not reflect how we ourselves respond. There are therefore two important conclusions. The words  “they returned to their master” remind us that we need to emphasize both of them in how we relate with Jesus.
On the part of Jesus, the passage is telling us that, like all good teachers, he wants us to look at the distinction we have made between the two. As regards ourselves, we need to share both what we do and what we teach with him, our Divine Master.
Verses 31 and 32 . Jesus makes another distinction, this time between
– our “teaching”
– our  “going away to a lonely place” so that we can “rest for a while”.
This “resting” would include what we do on our own. These are the times when we know that no one is there to look after us or to see that we do nothing wrong. We all have to take time off for rest.
Cn rest
We take the verb “eating” here in a very wide sense. It must include activities such as getting a good rest from our work, enjoying the good things of life. The fact that the apostles did not have time to eat is of course very significant. It means that the need to look after themselves has become very great. They must learn how to find rest for themselves.
Verses 33 and 34 . Jesus’ plan is thwarted by the people. The passage stresses that the crowd gathered almost by chance; the people came by accident. “ And “he took pity on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd”. This is very important. We need to listen to what people are asking for. We must respond to them remembering that they don’t have people around them who can give them training or leadership. They have no one who can console them or give them a new direction to follow in their lives.
And so he set himself to answer their great needs.
The passage stresses two important realities
– accommodating our need for rest, to get something to eat
– responding to the needs of others.
The passage also concerns “the crowds”. We too can always expect that Jesus will be there to look after us. He wants to understand our needs and to respond to them.
We must make sure that our meditation is true to our experience. We must not move to a conclusion too quickly. We will then find, by the end of the passage, that we have been really helped to understand our lives better.

Prayer Reflection
“The one who loves the community destroys the community;
the one who loves the brothers and sisters builds community.”
Dietrich Bonhoffer
Lord, all of us work for people:
– at work we have school principals, heads of government, directors of firms;
hope– within our circle of friends there are those who organise functions;
– in the Church community there are priests, choir leaders, youth group leaders.
We thank you that once in a way you send us someone like Jesus,
someone who, when we speak about all we have done for the organisation,
will notice that there is so much coming and going in our lives
that we have no time even to eat,
and will say to us that we must come away to some lonely place,
all by ourselves, and rest for a while.
Lord, we thank you that this is how you relate with us.
“God loves us too much to allow us to be satisfied and contented with mere images or signs of his presence.”  Abhishiktananda
come to meLord, prayer is that moment in our lives when we come into your presence
to tell you all we have done and taught,
and you see that with all the coming and going about us
we are not finding time to be nourished ourselves;
so you say to us that we need to come away to some lonely place by ourselves,
even if when we step ashore there is a large crowd waiting for us,
there is no need for us to panic
because eventually we will find that we can teach them at some length.
“The abbot is to temper all things so that the strong may still have something to strive after and the weak may not draw back in alarm.”    …The Rule of St Benedict
Lord, great people are like Jesus
– they know that it is necessary at times to go away
to a lonely place and rest for a while;
– but they know too that there are times when we have to forego
our moment of rest because there are people out there
who are like sheep without a shepherd, and we must take pity on them.
Help us to be more like your shepherd.
God protectsLord, you know how difficult we find it
when we want to include our deep feelings into what we teach.
We would like to include both but so often we neglect what we really believe
because we are afraid of betraying the deep teaching of Jesus.
“The biggest mistake sometimes is to play things safe in this life and end up being moral failures.”  Dorothy Day
Good Shepherd 7Lord,  the world is so complex that we feel to run away from it,
to take off in a boat where we can be safe.
Indeed, it is necessary to do that from time to time.
But that is dangerous too, because once we step ashore,
we will see that a large crowd has gathered there,
like sheep without a shepherd,
and your will is that we should be like Jesus for them
and set ourselves to teach them at some length.
 Thomas O’Loughlin
Introduction to the Celebration
living with JesusThe desire to be in the presence of the Lord and to listen to his teaching is what draws us together each time we assemble as a church — just as we are doing now. Today we hear of early groups of people who also had the desire to be with Jesus and how he took pity on them ‘because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length’. Let us set the tone for our celebration by thinking about our need to listen to the teachings of Jesus so that they can bring light into our lives.
Gospel: comment
Today’s passage is the prologue to the story of the feeding of five thousand men with five loaves and two fish (6:30-44) — a story whose perfect form is found in Mark. As the prologue, it is there to establish the reason why the people were there and in need of feeding. As a distinct element within the story, it shows us Mark combining the images of shepherd (one who guides and protects), teacher (one who feeds understanding and guides) and the one who cares (feeds with food and looks out for the people) in the person and work of Jesus.
The opening verses of this passage ‘come away … and rest awhile’ have launched a thousand retreats — but with scarce respect for the actual meaning of Mark’s text. The whole point of Mark’s story is that while it might be nice for Jesus and the disciples to have time ‘away from it all’, that is not to be for the simple reason that there is a people in need of pity which manifests itself in teaching.
Homily Notes
1. The gospel is so simple that it seems hardly worth preaching about it. Living in an age of celebrity we are used to the idea that people like to go and see where the ‘action’ is. Everyone who sets themselves up as having answers or a ‘lifestyle guide’ — no matter how bizarre — has a following. And one of the ways you show that someone is unusual, special, a curiosity, or a ‘star’ is to make sure that the ‘groupies’ get to each photo opportunity and that the paparazzi are anxious to be there all the time. Could it be that this is what we have just read — and that Mark is just glad that Jesus had such groupies?
2. On a practical level there is nothing remarkable about the scene: it all takes place over distances of just a couple of miles along the shore of a small lake and there were plenty of lonely places just behind the small village settlements that are referred to in the gospels as ‘cities’. Moreover, we are so used to hearing of miracles or healings or exorcisms — all of which can cause us to wonder ‘what was that really like’ or which make us feel uneasy; or hearing bits of Jesus’s preaching we find hard to apply to our own lives, that we are apt to dismiss something like today’s gospel as an irrelevance!
3. However, the fact that ‘Jesus took pity on them … and set himself to teach them at some length’ contains a lesson for us that is of the first importance. This is what we must explore in the homily today.
4. It is very easy to think of Jesus taking pity on people. Sinners, poor people, sick people, hungry people, people in mourning, paralytics, outcasts such as Zacchaeus (or some other tax-collector), people possessed by evil spirits: in each of these cases we can think of Jesus taking pity and then either doing something about it or teaching us about our duties of pity. He pitied sinners and forgave them;Jesus 1he pitied the sick and healed them; he pitied the widow and raised her son to life; he had pity for outcasts and made them welcome at his table; and he preached that we, his disciples, should take pity on the hungry, the poor, and those who are suffering. But the pity he shows today does not fit this pattern. He takes pity on the whole people — rich and poor, healthy and sick — and the form that his pity takes is teaching.
5. The idea that Jesus takes pity on people because they are like ‘sheep without a shepherd’, and the idea that teaching could be an expression of pity / mercy, are two ideas that are very alien to us. On the one hand, we do not like the idea that we need to be taught: we are in love with the notion of our own autonomy. This is expressed in the atheist sentiment: don’t walk in front, I may not follow; don’t walk behind, I may not lead; let’s just walk beside each other! On the other hand, teaching conjures up someone who knows what we do not and tells us — implicitly showing up our imperfection — and teaching also seems to be just a technical skill: imparting boring skills be they how to cook, do arithmetic, a language, or car-maintenance. Teaching is no more than ‘transferring skills’ — to use modern educational jargon.
6. But these notions of autonomy and of our human need to be taught are incompatible with the basis not just of Christianity, but all monotheistic belief. It is our belief that the universe — be it the outer universe of atoms or galaxies or the inner universe of our human existence — cannot be understood without reference to God. God is the maker of all that is, seen and unseen, and without thinking about God and the divine origin and purpose of the universe, there is something lacking in our understanding, in our judgements on how we should act, and in the depths of our hearts. As Augustine said: ‘You, 0 God, have made us for yourself and our hearts are restless without you.’
7. Yet, modern society tries to live in a God-free zone and make out that the divine is an optional extra, no more than a personal choice. While, at the same time, the’body, mind, spirit’ shelves of bookshops groan under the number of books by lifestyle consultants that promise happiness by a mix of diets, mind-games, and ways of re-arranging the furniture in your home. The God-free zone is also a happiness-free zone.
8. We only become fully human when we recognise that there is more to life than the sum of the bits we can manage, the bits we can cope with, and the bits we can see. This child of godrecognition is rarely a blinding flash of understanding that there is a ‘God-shaped aperture’ in our existence, rather it is, more often than not, a painful discovery that we would almost be glad to avoid. Yet in this discovery we need also to appreciate the wisdom who teaches us — here lies the mission of Jesus the prophet and teacher. He teaches us to become aware of the deeper needs of our humanity: to see ourselves as the Father’s children, to work together to build the kingdom, and the need to journey through life towards our true home. Jesus both teaches us of our fundamental dependency on God, and of the love that God constantly offers us.
9. We as a community continue that teaching: not just transferring skills such as how to pray or how to help the poor, but teaching in the sense of bringing people to wisdom. This is the wisdom that knows that our lives are incomplete without acknowledging who we are as creatures within a God-given universe.
10. The people hurried after him, and he set about teaching them at length. Here is a hard question: are we willing to sit as students (the same word as ‘disciples’ except it is less pious) at the feet of Jesus — and be taught at length?
Sean GoanGospel
This text follows on from what happened last Sunday when Jesus missioned them as his apostles. If their success depends on their being sent by Jesus, then to some extent it also constant prayerdepends on their returning to him. In other words, it only makes sense because of their relationship to him and this is what is demonstrated in this short text. They return to him, no doubt full of all that had happened to them but also tired and so he suggests time apart. Such is the hunger for the good news of the kingdom that they don’t even have time to eat. However, the people know the lake shore and can guess where they are headed for and so, on arrival, Jesus and the apostles are greeted by a large crowd. Jesus’ response, however, is not one of frustration but of compassion and the apostles learn once again from the Master what it means to be a shepherd. It is also noteworthy that what Jesus does for this large crowd is not to perform miracles but to teach them at length, thus highlighting again that vital aspect of Jesus’ ministry.
It is a sad reflection on two thousand years of Christianity that there are still so many church diversitydivisions among those who claim to follow Christ. However, this is a reminder to us that reconciliation is not something that we merely wish for or give approval to. Being reconciled to those from whom we are estranged can be very difficult. Wounds do not easily heal and recognising our need to forgive and be forgiven takes courage and humility. The readings remind us that our faith response to the difficulties we face as a church must always be rooted in the compassion of God. We are also reminded that teaching and learning will always be part of what we do as a Christian community.
From the Connections:

The apostles return from their first mission of preaching and healing and report to Jesus.  He gathers them in a “deserted” place, but the people find them and keep coming.  Even their attempt to escape by boat to the other side of the lake is foiled once word gets out.
This incident recorded by Mark in today’s Gospel (which precedes his account of the feeding of the multitude) offers two important insights into our Church’s ministry: that the mission of the Church does not spring from mass marketing techniques or publicity strategies but from the Gospel of compassion we seek to live and share, from the authority of our commitment to forgiveness and reconciliation; and that leadership, inspired by the wisdom of God, means not dictating and ruling over others but inspiring, providing for and selflessly caring for those whom we are called to lead.

In our heeding those “shepherds” in our society and culture who promise us only the best, who affirm and rationalize our fears, who give us “enemies” to direct our fear and their promise to vanquish them for us, who reduce the complexities of live to simple rules and absolutes, we are the “shepherdless” for whom Jesus’ heart breaks.
In Christ, God has raised up for us a shepherd to guide us in God’s ways of compassion and reconciliation; a shepherd to lead us safely along life’s rough crags and dangerous drop-offs to God’s pasture of peace and fulfillment; a shepherd who helps us clear the obstacles and hurdles of fear and self-interest to live lives centered in what is right and just.
From the clamor of the marketplace and the demands of our calendars and “to do” lists, we need “deserted,” out-of-the-way places be alone with God, to listen to the quiet of our hearts to hear the voice of God.  

Making a place for forgiveness
One morning the members of an Iowa synagogue awoke to find neo-Nazi graffiti covering the walls of their temple.  The entire religious community of the city reacted with anger and outrage.  Two weeks later police arrested an 18-year-old male and his 17-year-old girlfriend. 
The community demanded that the two prosecuted to the full extent of the Law — but, first, the synagogue’s rabbi wanted to talk with them.  The two offenders met at the synagogue with the rabbi, along with two Holocaust survivors, a former member of the Israeli army and three temple elders.  Tears, fear and anger flowed as the rabbi and the members of the Jewish community told their stories of the horror of the Holocaust, of going into hiding and fleeing Nazi atrocities, of struggling to survive and make new lives far from their homelands, despite the scars and nightmares.
The teens told their stories, as well.  As a child, he had been abused physically and, as a result, had suffered a significant hearing loss and a speech defect.  He ran away from home at the age of 15 and was taken in by members of a white supremacist group.  Completely indoctrinated in bigotry and hate, he came to Iowa to start his own neo-Nazi group.  His only recruit was the young girl.  The vandalizing of the synagogue was their attempt to call attention to their deranged cause.
In their three-hour meeting, a dramatic change took place:  The synagogue community came to see the two teens as lost, broken and frightened children.  The ugly Jewish stereotypes the young offenders were forced to study disintegrated and they realized the courage and wisdom of this synagogue community.  The two asked for the temple’s forgiveness. 
In the Jewish tradition, forgiveness must be earned.  So it was agreed that the two would perform 200 hours of service to the temple — 100 hours under the supervision of the temple custodian, and 100 hours studying Jewish history and the history of the Holocaust with the rabbi.  The temple also offered to get medical help for the young man and have the Nazi tattoos removed from his arms.  They also agreed to help the two teens obtain job-seeking skills, therapy and their GED.  They would meet again in six months and if the two had atoned for what they had done in the manner agreed upon, forgiveness would be given and the criminal charges would be dismissed.
The teens exceeded all expectations.  Their atonement transformed their lives with new possibilities, new understandings, new relationships.  
And it all began because a community was able to put aside its anger and demands for justice to come to a place of forgiveness and healing.
[The Des Moines Register, April 22, 2012.]

Jesus calls us to seek out “deserted” places and times where and when we can realize the possibilities of bringing restorative justice and reconciling peace to our families and communities.  From the clamor of the marketplace and the demands of our calendars and “to do” lists, we need time and space to hear the voice of God speaking in the quiet of our hearts, to put aside our angers and fears, our egos and need for control, in order to re-center our lives in the things of God and re-create our world in the compassion of his Christ.   
From Fr. Tony Kadavil's Collection:

 # 1: “Altar of the Chair:”
Today’s gospel presents Jesus as the good shepherd for people who were like sheep without shepherd. At St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the role of Pope as a teaching shepherd is depicted very powerfully in art. At the very back of the basilica, there is one of the most famous pieces in art history, done by the great sculptor  Bernini.  It’s  called  the  “Altar  of  the  Chair”  and  it  was  so  beautiful  and influential that art historians say it was the start of the baroque era. It was Pope Alexander  VII who  commissioned Bernini  to build  a  sumptuous  monument  which would give prominence to the ancient wooden chair believed to have been used by St. Peter. Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze richly ornamented with bas-reliefs, in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. At the top of the altar, there is the brilliant translucent image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by angels. The Holy Spirit is descending upon a huge bronze chair which houses what in the 16th century was believed to be the actual chair on which St. Peter sat to teach the people of Rome. Peter’s chair is a symbol of the teaching authority of the Church and particularly of the Popes, the successors of St. Peter, who are Christ’s vicars on earth. The most formal teachings of the Church are called “ex cathedra,” meaning literally “from the chair.” Underneath the chair there are four bishops, all famous teaching saints in the early Church—Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Ambrose—who are depicted referring to and spiritually upholding the teaching authority of the Church and the papacy. But the element that is most relevant to today’s Scriptures is found sculpted into the backrest of the Chair. It’s a depiction of Peter feeding Christ’s sheep. It’s a reference to the end of St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied that he did. And Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.” Peter’s obedience in caring for Christ’s sheep is seen above all, therefore, in his TEACHING of Christ’s truth. Every year on February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to commemorate St. Peter's teaching in Rome.
# 2: The hour of a mid-week prayer service in a little church:
Michael Faraday, an early pioneer of electromagnetic current, once addressed a convocation of scientists. For an hour, he held the audience spellbound with his lecture on the nature of the magnet. After he had finished, he received a thundering ovation. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, stood to congratulate him. The applause thundered again. Just as quickly, a deadened silence pervaded the audience. Faraday had left. It was the hour of a mid- week prayer service in a little church of which he was a member. Do we have a similar commitment? Like Faraday, have we pledged our allegiances to a Power that outlasts the short-lived fads and governments of this world? One of the reasons we gather for worship each week is for the refreshment of our spirits, the recharging of our spiritual; batteries. We need to shut the world out and focus our attention on God's presence in our lives. Jesus knew the value of getting away to a quiet place. With our families, would we put into practice what the Wall Street Journal suggested a generation ago?
"What America needs ... is a revival of piety - the piety of our fathers. Today’s gospel tells us how Jesus takes his worn-out disciples to a lonely place for rest and refreshing.
# 3: Expectant waiting for dear ones:
A story from the life of Mother Teresa shows her love for the lonely and unwanted people, the "sheep without a shepherd," who, while materially well-off, are sometimes "the poorest of the poor." On one occasion, she visited a well-run nursing home, where good food, medical care and other facilities were offered to the elderly. As she moved among the old people, she noticed that none of them smiled unless she touched them and smiled at them first. She also noticed that many of them kept glancing expectantly towards the door while listening to her. When she asked one of the nurses why this was so, she was told: “They are looking for a visit from someone related to them. But, except for an occasional visit, birthday gift or a ‘get well’ card, this never happens." Jesus invites us, in today’s gospel, to show concern, mercy and compassion for such sheep without a shepherd.

#4: The young pastor was teaching the 23rd  psalm to the Sunday school children.
He told them that they were sheep who needed guidance. Then the priest asked, "If you are the sheep then who is the shepherd-- obviously indicating himself. A silence of a few seconds followed. Then a young boy said, "Jesus. Jesus is the shepherd." The young priest, obviously caught by surprise, said to the boy, "Well then, who am I?" The boy frowned thoughtfully and then said, "I guess you must be a sheep dog."

Life messages: 1) Christians must be people of prayer and action: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. One of our main problems is that we do not truly allow God the opportunity to speak to us.  We also do not know how to "be still and to listen." Hence, we are often in danger of refusing to allow God to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength.  In addition, we do not set aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to God.  How can we shoulder life's burdens if we have no contact with the Lord of Life? How can we do God's work unless we rely on God's strength? And how can we receive that strength unless we pray to him individually, in the family and as a parish community in the Church and receive His grace by participating in the Holy Mass and through the reception of the Sacraments? However, we must never seek God's fellowship in order to avoid the fellowship of men but always in order to prepare for it. From our reflection on today’s Gospel, let us remind ourselves that the Christian life consists of meeting with God in the secret place so that we may serve people more effectively in the market place.

2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: People today find it difficult to balance those two aspects of the Christian life. Some apparently believe that the social ministry of the Church is all that is needed to make Christ present in the world. Others seem to believe that the Church's major concern should be preaching the Gospel, rather than feeding the hungry and healing the sick. The Church's duty, so the argument goes, is to spread the Gospel and provide for public worship. Both views are one-sided. There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. But that is only half of the story. Christians must also display the same compassion for the suffering that Jesus exhibited by meeting the social and material needs of others - even those who are not members of our Church.

3) The Church needs ideal pastors: The pastor must be a person of compassion. He must be able to feel deeply the suffering of others, to understand why they fear and tremble. The pastors are also called to lead and “govern wisely” (Jer 23:5), living the teaching they communicate. They are to guide people in right paths and are to be concerned about what is right and just. Their pastoral care should be involved and peaceful care and guidance. There are very many people searching for truth today, people hungering for instruction, good people who are looking for direction. They may be parents who are sick with grief over the future of a troubled child; a man stripped of his dignity by unemployment; a woman facing a pregnancy alone; elderly people who feel the diminishing surge of life in their bodies; people who are angry and confused because they have lost confidence in their leaders, whether political or religious. They are people who are looking for answers and for meaning. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They all need ideal pastors filled with the spirit of Christ the “Good Shepherd.”
From Fr. Jude Botelho:

The kings in Jeremiah's times were supposed to be good shepherds of the flock entrusted to them by God, but they were using the flock for their own evil purposes. Jeremiah, issues a stern warning against the shepherds who have not lived up to their calling and at the same time a message of hope for those who have suffered at their hands. Today's message is not only addressed to shepherds of the Church, but also to every Christian because all of us are called to be 'shepherds' in some way or another, called to care for others; to encourage one another by the good example of our lives. At the same time if we have been disillusioned by the failures of our leaders, we do not have to lose hope. All is not lost, because God has not abandoned his people. He promises that there will be new shepherds who will care for his people and ultimately He reminds us that He himself will care for His flock.

God has not abandoned us
Alexander Solzhenitsyn had been in the Gulag, a Soviet prison camp. He had been forced to do back-breaking labor until he came to the point of exhaustion. With little food and little rest, he was constantly watched by guards and never allowed to communicate with another human being. Never permitted a newspaper or magazine from the outside, he came to believe that he was forgotten by everyone, even God. In his despair, he decided to commit suicide, but he could not reconcile that act with the teachings of the Bible. Then he decided to end his misery by trying an escape, knowing that he would surely be shot. He rationalized that his death would then be at the hands of another and not his own doing. The appointed day came when he would put his fateful plan into action. Sitting under a tree during a brief respite from work, just as he started to jump and run, a prisoner he had never seen before stood in front of him. Looking into his eyes, Solzhenitsyn said he could see more love than he had ever seen before emanating from the eyes of another human being. The prisoner stooped down with a small twig in his hand and began to draw the symbol of the cross in the soil of Soviet Russia. When Solzhenitsyn saw the cross, he knew God had not forsaken him. He knew God was right there beside him in his deepest pit. Little did he realize that at that very moment, Christians all over the world were praying for his release, and within three days he would be sitting in Geneva, Switzerland, a free man.
Joe Brown, in 'Battle Fatigue'

In the gospel we reflect on the new shepherd, Jesus Christ; we see the compassion and care of Jesus both for the shepherds and for the sheep. Jesus had sent out his apostles on their mission and they were returning tired and weary with all the work they had done. Seeing their fatigues and knowing that they would be drained out because of the demands made on them, Jesus immediately invited them to a quiet rest, a retreat, an outing by themselves. And the Gospel adds the reason for this invitation, 'for many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat.' These lines give us an insight into Jesus. He is not a hard taskmaster making impossible demands of his disciples. He is sensitive to their needs and to their limits and so he suggests a break. In the last part of the gospel we observe the care of Jesus for his sheep. The crowds, knowing where the disciples and Jesus were heading to, hurried to the place before them and when Jesus and his disciples reached there the crowds swamped them. Though Jesus and his disciples needed rest, the needs of the people were a priority for Jesus and forgetting his own need he began to teach and administer to the crowds. We can go through life seeking to meet our own needs first before we think of others or we can put our own needs aside, delay satisfying our own needs and think of others first. The sign of maturity is seen in the ability to forget self and think of others. Jesus is the good shepherd and he gives his disciples a live lesson in compassion and care.

Here is a true story about a 'coolie', a luggage porter. He was poor, illiterate and the lone breadwinner of his eight-member family. He had to labour hard in order to earn a day's pittance. What was remarkable about this man was that he complained to none despite the hard labour which kept him occupied from dawn to dusk. Unlike his fellow coolies, he would never charge more than his due. He would often help his fellow coolies to carry luggage in addition to the heavy weight he used to carry himself. One day, a gentleman, seeing this act of kindness, asked him, "Young man, I have noticed your generosity. Why do you do this while all others are concerned with themselves?" The coolie looked straight at the eyes of the gentleman and answered: "Sir, I am poor and illiterate. I don't know any other work than carrying luggage. But I know that I have only one life to live and this life is a waste if I don't set aside a little energy of mine to help others and share their burden. I know that this is not a great act. But I do believe that my creator does not demand more from me since He knows me more than anybody else."
Inspirational Quotes

The interruptions are my work!
Once, a man went to see a friend who was a professor at a great university. However, as they sat chatting in the professor's office, they were continually interrupted by students who came knocking at the door, seeking the professor's advice about something or the other. Each time the professor rose from his chair, went to the door, and dealt with the student's request. Eventually the visitor asked the professor, "How do you manage to get your work done with so many interruptions?" "At first I used to resent the interruptions to my work. But one day it suddenly dawned on me that the interruptions were my work." the professor replied. He made his work consist of -being available to his students. And it was by no coincidence that he was the happiest and most fulfilled professor on the campus.
Flor McCarthy, in 'New Sunday & Holy Day Liturgies'

No one comes!

Mother Teresa tells how one day she visited an old people's home in Sweden. It was efficiently run. The food was good. The staff was trained, and treated the old people well. It seemed an ideal place in which to end one's days. There were about forty elderly people in the home. They seemed to have everything they wanted. Yet as she went around she noticed that none of them smiled. She also noticed something else. They kept looking towards the door. She asked one of the nurses why this was so. 'They are longing for someone to come to visit them,' the nurse replied. 'They are always looking and thinking, "Maybe my son, may be my daughter, maybe somebody will come and visit me today." But no one comes. It's the same every day.' 'No one comes!' The phrase haunted Mother Teresa. These elderly people had been put away in this home by their families and then abandoned. That sense of having been abandoned was by far their greatest suffering. Sometimes a person may have no choice but to put an elderly parent in a home. However, it's the spirit in which this is done that matters. Having put an elderly parent in a home, one person may abandon that parent, whereas another visits that parent regularly. A Christian who doesn't care is like a lamp that doesn't give light. But caring is never easy. Yet all of us are capable of caring. All that is required is an open heart. When we care, we are living the Gospel.
Flor McCarthy in 'New Sunday and Holy Day Liturgies'

You have no rights!
On a visit to the United States the Premier of China Wen Jiabao was constantly bombarded with questions on human rights from the people he encountered. His response was, "We have a different understanding of human rights. You trace your understanding of human rights to Rousseau in the time of Enlightenment. We trace our understanding back to a 13th century Chinese philosopher." Whoever did the research for the Premier did an excellent piece of work. The language of human rights grew out of a time in history when people felt more secure in understanding their life in the world without reference to God. So the emphasis became human rights, not God-given rights. The Bible doesn't use the language of human rights. In fact, the disciples of Jesus have no rights, as we see in today's gospel. In the words of the Apostle Paul, "You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body."
Sam Rowen in 'Reflections'

The Good Shepherd

A soldier lay dying on a Korean battle-field, and asked for a priest. The medic could not find one; but a wounded man lying near, heard the request and said, "I am a priest." The medic turned to the speaker and saw his condition, which was as bad as that of the other. "It will kill you to move," he said. But the priest replied, "The life of a man's soul is worth more than a few hours of my life", and crawled to the dying soldier. He heard his confession, gave him absolution, and the two died hand in hand.
Anthony Castle in 'Quotes and Anecdotes'

Shepherds alone with God

Every shepherd -pastors, religious, church leaders, and priests too are called to become a part of Jesus by resting with Him and reflecting on Him. Jesus' apostles were so involved in the ministry that they had no time even to eat. Thus, like a shepherd leading his flock to restful waters, Jesus leads them to a lonely place - for rest, reflection and re-creation. Many shepherds - Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi -spent many hours in silence before starting their daily work. Let us pray with Tagore: "Lord, I ask for a moment's indulgence to sit by your side. The works I have in hand I will finish afterwards. Now it is time to sit quiet, face-to-face with Thee, and to sing dedication of life in this silent overflowing leisure."
Francis Gonsalves in 'Sunday Seeds for Daily Deeds'

May we find rest in Him to work for others!
From the

Mark 6:30-34, 53-56 - "Hurry Hinders Ministry"
Ephesians 2:11-22 - "Zombie Zone or Beulah Land?" by Leonard Sweet

An ethics professor at Princeton Seminary asked for volunteers for an extra assignment. About half the class met him at the library to receive their assignments. The professor divided the students into three groups of five each. He gave the first group envelopes telling them to proceed immediately across campus to Stewart Hall. He told them that they had 15 minutes and if they didn't arrive on time, it would affect their grade. A minute or two later, he handed out envelopes to five others. They were also to go over to Stewart Hall, but they had 45 minutes.
The third group had three hours to get to Stewart Hall. The students weren't aware of it, but the professor had arranged for three drama students to meet them along the way. Close to the beginning of their walk, one of the drama students had his hands on his head and was moaning aloud as if in great pain. About half way to Stewart Hall, on the steps of the chapel, the seminary students passed a man who was lying face down as if unconscious. Finally, on the steps of Stewart Hall, the third drama student was acting out a seizure. In the first group of students, those who had only 15 minutes to get across campus, no one stopped to help. In the second group, two students stopped to help. In the last group, the one that had three hours for their assignment, all of the students stopped to help at least one person. The professor had clearly shown these seminarians that hurry hinders ministry...
There is nothing like escaping to a cool movie theater on a hot summer night. If you are a high school or college kid on break from school, there is no better stuffy, hot night escape than a scary movie that makes your blood run cold.

Ever since the dawn of movies there have been "fright films." Frankenstein, Dracula, and the Wolfman were first on the silver screen. Later on mythical monsters were replaced by urban monsters, and the "teenage slasher" movie was born - where lonely baby-sitters and popular football players were the special focus of crazed creatures with hockey masks or with really long fingernails. But the most popular "scare-bearer" these days seems to be a creature you can't even wish were dead because it already is . . . zombies!

Wait a minute, you say. I didn't come to church to hear about zombies. Well, you not only need to hear about them if you are to understand the mission field God has put us in. But you need to hear about them if you are to understand our text for this morning, a text about "aliens and strangers"...
 Humor: Walking on Water 

There is an old story that has often been re-told in especially the Eastern Orthodox part of the church. According to the tale, a devout abbot from a monastery decided to take a prolonged spiritual retreat in a small cabin located on a remote island in the middle of a large lake. He told his fellow monks that he wanted to spend his days in prayer so as to grow closer to God. For six months he remained on the island with no other person seeing him or hearing from him in all that time. But then one day, as two monks were standing near the shore soaking up some sunshine, they could see in the distance a figure moving toward them. It was the abbot, walking on water, and coming toward shore. After the abbot passed by the two monks and continued on to the monastery, one of the monks turned to the other and said, "All these months in prayer and the abbot is still as stingy as ever. After all, the ferry costs only 25 cents!"

Humor aside, the point of the story is that it's amazing how easily we may sometimes miss the significance of something that is right in front of us. We think we know the meaning of this incident of Jesus' walking on the water, but do we really?

Scott Hoezee, Comments and Observations on Mark 6:30-56.
We Are Sheepdogs 

Thirty years ago, when I was a beginning seminarian, my pastoral supervisor in my fieldwork parish reminded me that the word "pastor" means shepherd. But then he said, "The people already have a Good Shepherd in Jesus." He said it was as English mystic Evelyn Underhill had written some time before, that the best that could be said of clergy is that we are sheepdogs. Sometimes we do a good job helping the Good Shepherd, and sometimes we just bark a lot and cause general confusion among the flock.

Samuel D. Zumwalt, Jesus Means Compassion
Close the Door to Turn on the Light
One evening years ago a speaker who was visiting the United States wanted to make a telephone call. He entered a phone booth, but found it to be different from those in his own country. It was beginning to get dark, so he had difficulty finding the number in the directory. He noticed that there was a light in the ceiling, but he didn't know how to turn it on. As he tried again to find the number in the fading twilight, a passerby noted his plight and said, "Sir, if you want to turn the light on, you have to shut the door." To the visitor's amazement and satisfaction, when he closed the door, the booth was filled with light. He soon located the number and completed the call.

A writer in the devotional, Our Daily Bread, commenting on this story, writes, "In a similar way, when we draw aside in a quiet place to pray, we must block out our busy world and open our hearts to the Father. Our darkened world of disappointments and trials will then be illuminated. We will enter into communion with God, we will sense His presence, and we will be assured of His provision for us. Our Lord often went to be alone with the Heavenly Father. Sometimes it was after a busy day of preaching and healing, as in today's Scripture reading. At other times, it was before making a major decision." (Luke 6:12). And so should we.

King Duncan,

Deus Interruptus

Jesus and the disciples had been headed for Bethsaida when the evening's storm blew them to Gennesaret instead. Notice our Lord's response. He does not tell the Apostles to set out to sea and try again. Instead, he disembarks and begins to minister to the people around him. Christ's response is to see the storm as God's will and to minister appropriately wherever he lands.

How do I respond when my day is blown off course? Do I respond to daily (or even major life-changing) "inconveniences" by looking for God's purposes or do I become angry and frustrated at the "interruption" of my plans and purposes?

I have found that the higher my personal agenda; the less I am able to see God's purpose in my daily "interruptions." Yet, I have also found that when make myself available to "Deus Interruptus," incredible and miraculous things frequently happen. Have you ever considered beginning your day by "giving God permission to alter your agenda at any moment and any time?

"Dearest God, feel free to interrupt my agenda today with yours at anytime or in any place."

Jerry Goebel, Sheep without a Shepherd
The Job Christ Wants Done

Writing about another time and place, Leo Tolstoy said, "I beheld the misery, cold, hunger, humiliation of thousands of my fellow human beings ... I feel, and can never cease to feel, myself a partaker in a crime which is constantly being committed, so long as I have extra food while others have none, so long as I have two coats while there exists one person without any ... I must seek in my heart at every moment, with meekness and humility, some opportunity for doing the job Christ wants done." The job Christ wants done. He set the course; we are to do the rowing.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company, Inc.
Compassion and Motive

Jesus renewed people with the power of his compassion. I like the ancient legend about the monk who found a precious stone, a precious jewel. A short time later, the monk met a traveler, who said he was hungry and asked the monk if he would share some of his provisions. When the monk opened his bag, the traveler saw the precious stone and, on an impulse, asked the monk if he could have it. Amazingly, the monk gave the traveler the stone.

The traveler departed quickly, overjoyed with his new possession. However, a few days later, he came back, searching for the monk. He returned the stone to the monk and made a request: "Please give me something more valuable, more precious than this stone. Please give me that which enabled you to give me this precious stone!"

James W. Moore, Some Things Are Too Good Not To Be True, Dimensions, p. 101
In this day when we are suppose to have so many devices to save time, I've never seen so many hurried and restless people! If the computer, the laptop, the cellular phone, and all of these other technological wonders are suppose to save us time, why do we have so little time for the things that matter?

It seems that with all we've accomplished, about all we have really added is speed and noise. We get there faster, but we don't know where we are going. And when we get there, we're out of breath.
I read one time about a man who swallowed an egg whole. He was afraid to move because he was afraid it would break. But he was afraid to sit still because he was afraid it would hatch. There are a lot of people like that today--so frenetic, so pressured they don't know which way to go. And the place where the pressure and restless often hit home is in the home.

Adrian Rogers, Ten Secrets for a Successful Family, Crossway Books, p. 71.
Feeling the Suffering of Others

Flannery O'Connor, the insightful Roman Catholic writer, lifted up the Christian dimension when she wrote: "You will have found Christ when you are concerned with other people's sufferings and not your own." The beginning of compassion involves becoming aware of the suffering of others. 
But it is not enough simply to see the suffering of others, we need to feel it. It is possible to see suffering, but not to feel it. Dewitt Jones tells about a photographer who walked down the street one day and came upon a man who was choking. "What a picture," he thought. "This says it all: A man, alone, in need. What a message!" He fumbled for his camera and light meter until the poor fellow who was choking realized that help was not forthcoming. He grabbed the photographer's arm and gasped, "I'm turning blue!" "That's all right," said the photographer, patting the fellow's hand, "I'm shooting color film." Just noticing suffering isn't enough.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company
Unless a Man Has Pity

In his book The Human Comedy, William Saroyan noted: "Unless a man has pity, he is inhuman and not yet truly a man, for out of pity comes the balm which heals. Only good men weep. If a man has not yet wept at the world's pain, he is less than the dirt he walks upon, because dirt will nourish seed, root, stalk, leaf, and flower, but the spirit of a man without pity is barren and will bring forth nothing...." Good people feel the pain of others, and they weep.

David G. Rogne, Sermons for Sundays after Pentecost, CSS Publishing Company
Avoiding Our Pain 

Henri Nouwen wrote that "our culture has become most sophisticated in the avoidance of pain, not only our physical pain but our emotional and mental pain as well. We not only bury our dead as if they were still alive, but we also bury our pains as if they were not really there. We have become so used to this state of anesthesia, that we panic when there is nothing or nobody left to distract us...