A Costly Caring
One day Mother Teresa visited an old people’s home in Sweden. It was efficiently run. The food was good and the staff were all well trained. They treated the old people well and seemed to have everything they wanted. Yet as she went around Mother Teresa noticed that none of them smiled. She also noticed something else. They all kept looking towards the door and windows. She asked one of the nurses why this was so. The nurse replied, “They are looking for someone to come and visit them. They are always looking and thinking, “Maybe my son, maybe my daughter, maybe some of my friends will come and visit me today.” But no one comes. It is the same every day. This phrase “no one comes” haunted her and she began to provide for this human need through her sisters.
Today’s gospel has much in common with this story. Jesus was in such demand that he and the apostles hardly had any time to eat. However, at some point he decided that enough was enough and took the apostles off to a quiet place for a break. He was not thinking of himself but of his apostles. But this didn’t work out as planned. The desperate crowd discovered where they had gone and spoiled their retreat. But seeing them Jesus was moved with compassion because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
There is no doubt that Mark expects all those exercising a ministry in the Christian community to work and serve those in need to the point of self-sacrifice. But he also warns that they should not get so involved with commitments and tasks that they cannot attend to genuine self-care, and the most important form of self-care is spirituality.
The apostles who come together around their master and assess with him what they have done, represent a learning community that keeps in constant touch with its Lord. Can any worker complete a task without first learning from a Master what is supposed to be done? And after finishing the task assigned, not to go to the master to assess the work he or she has done? The danger Mark points out here is that there are many who start their projects and take decisions without consulting and seeking the approval of the Master. This takes place when we neglect to meditate, pray and discern with Christ all that we plan to do or are engaged in.
Jesus as shepherd resembles King David, who was a shepherd before he became a king. Jesus comes from the line of David as was prophesied in today’s first reading. Jesus is the great shepherd king, ready to care for his flock rather than use the flock to gain status and power. It was Moses, not Mark, who first spoke of “sheep without a shepherd”. When Moses realized that the time of his death was near, he was afraid that his people would remain without direction, so he asked God to choose a leader who would form the people of Israel and guide them on their journey to the promised land. (Numbers 27:17)
Mark is telling us that Jesus is the leader sent by God in answer to the prayer of Moses. If we follow him closely, we will not go about seeking food that does not satisfy and drink that does not quench our deepest thirst. With him, we will find the path of life and others will be helped.
How did Jesus react on seeing the crowd? The Gospel says, “He had compassion on them.” Is this what we feel for the desperate people of our time? What is our reaction to suffering, anxiety and loss? Rather than being moved with compassion, how often are we irritated and impatient when the desperate interrupt our tasks and plans? How often do we feel like shunning those who fail to accept our way of thinking? This is not how the Master Jesus behaved. He was never aggressive. He would sit down and talk, listen and try to understand the problems and anxieties of the people.
The compassion of Christ is not sentimental but wholistic, it is a response of the whole person to the needs of another whole person. The compassion of Jesus implies commitment to a wholistic relationship to God, self, others and creation. If this threatens us because it seems that we will be totally consumed in trying to meet the needs of our world in distress, then the first thing we should do is spend some time with Jesus and rest a while in his Spirit.
By Susai Jesu, OMI
Vocation Team – West
Phone: (587) 335-2015