The Sixteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
22 July 2018 at Saint Peter the Apostle and Saint William Churches in Naples, FL
Jeremiah 23, 1-6 + Psalm 23 + Ephesians 2, 13-18 + Mark 6, 30-34
This is the only time in Mark’s Gospel that disciples are called “apostles.” It only appears in Matthew’s Gospel once, six times in Luke, and never in John. I think it is important to understand this fact because we tend to think of “apostles” in terms of those twelve who may have some special place or calling, which then allows us to be excused too easily from taking up our duties as disciples of Jesus.
The Gospel of Mark is really a School of Discipleship. It is a catechesis, a formation program for anyone who would be a disciple of this Rabbi, Jesus. Notice today that he teaches the people and that they have come to hear him teach. They have already expressed their amazement at his teaching in a Synagogue. They express their amazement because he teaches with authority, which means he is authentic backing up what he teaches with deeds and behavior. He teaches them care for one another, and then he heals. He teaches them to feed the hungry, and in this Gospel, he is just about to do that. He teaches them about forgiveness, and he forgives Peter and even those who nail him to a cross. He wants them to hear the Word of God, so he opens the ears of the deaf. He wants them to see the glory of God, so he restores sight to the blind. He wants us to have life, so he raises up a dead girl, the only son of a mother, and he calls Lazarus out of a tomb. All so that we might be one, might live in unity, and live in peace.
Every one of us in this place has heard the call to be a disciple, a student of this teacher. It is why we are here and not somewhere else at this hour. In terms of history and time, the teacher has gone after teaching us everything that was revealed to him by his Father. Day after day, we understand the feelings of Jesus when he looked at the people. It was way more than pity which is a soft way of translating the gut-wrenching word that Mark uses in the Gospel. It is the same feeling a parent would have at seeing their child in suffering. Jesus makes the needs and wants, hurts and pain of these people his own.
Disciples of Jesus Christ look at our world and ask what deep and truly human hopes and hungers are being unconsciously expressed in the blind competition of sports fans, the addictions that plague every level of society, the supremacy movements and all the “isms” that divide us who live on this earth. Some political leaders benefit from discord and division, and some religious figures make a fortune suggesting that we should wait for everything to be resolved in heaven and then look upon all our riches as blessings without a word about the obligations that come with these riches.
Jesus taught those people, and he still teaches us. What he teaches is the Will of God, his Father. He teaches that the needs and wants, hurts and pain of all people are our own, and that when anyone is hungry are hurting we are all hungry and hurting. So, he teaches that God wills for us to all be one. He teaches that mercy and compassion is the only way people made in his image can respond to another. He teaches us to feed, to heal, to forgive. He does not teach us judgment or vengeance. Having taught us these things, he has sent us out to teach and preach. We do so first by what we do at home, in an office, at school. It is not necessary to teach or preach with words. In fact, until there are deeds and until there is action, the words are in vain and are empty. As the Lord waited for those twelve to return and report on what had happened, he still waits for us to complete his work on earth, and only after we have fulfilled his command should we find a place of rest. The question now is, how much longer does he have to wait?