Monday, 4 August 2014

The one who hungers

Sunday Gospel - Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.

When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they answered ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to me’ he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining; twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.

An important event marked by the fact that it is in all the gospels. Being in all the gospels doesn't mean that the authors agree on one version though. The five thousand are fed but behind the scenes the mood is a variable one.

A sombre tone to begin with. The news of John the Baptist seems like a by-the-by read from the lectern. But this is Jesus' cousin; a holy one of God; a friend and a role model. Together with their followers, they have been walking the same path; challenging the same authorities.

Perhaps it strikes Jesus more fully, the road he has chosen. And not only him but these people he has drawn around him.

Counsellors and psychologists tell us that grief needs time. The stages of grief toss and turn until some acceptance is reached. What would you expect from anyone caught up in life's busyness until the knock on the door that brings bad news?

Jesus withdraws - pulls away from the story-telling and the radical teaching.

He had left the people to grieve for his loss and his sadness. Overwhelmed by grief and fear, he had come - not to a place of spiritual solitude - but to a lonely place. A place apart, a place for the anxious heart to feel abandoned.

Only to be met by the sorrows of others. And like many of us trying to deal with the many faces of grief - Jesus is asked to put on the 'brave' one. For, in reality, life goes on - if not for you then for everyone else.

This first line is what has captured me this year. In a bright, almost Mediterranean summer, I am  looking forward to spending time with family and friends. Praying for this and that to make my life easier.

All the time the news has rained down sorrow upon sorrow, death upon death, tragedy upon tragedy. And I think about the helplessness of God seeing creation exploited, teachings ignored, spirit dismissed. I feel the suffering of women and children who number far more than 5000.  I feel the humanity of Jesus still echoing the emotional turmoil of it all.   In this morning's rain I feel God's sorrow over-spilling, nourishing the land in spite of grief. Overblown roses holding tears for a world that God has never turned away from. 

And I think carefully about what I am going to pray for today.




Claire Bangasser said...

A very beautiful post, Word. Thank you.

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks for reading Claire :)

Lynda said...

Thank you for your reflection on this beautiful Gospel. It has come alive in your words.

Gelli Ma said...

Thanks Lynda,