January 4, 2022
Memorial of Saint Elizabeth Ann Seton, Religious
Today, in God’s Lavish Mercy, our readings are full of surprises for Jesus’s new followers and for us.
Jesus begins to reveal what his Presence among us is all about. The message is this: I am here for the poor, hungry, sick and abandoned:
The Lord has sent me to bring glad tidings to the poorLuke 4:18
and to proclaim liberty to captives.
And Jesus wants us to be like him.
In our first reading, John makes that sound so simple:
Whoever is without love does not know God, for God is love.1 John 4:8
Someone might read that line and think, “OK! I can do that! I love lots of people and things. I know how to love.”
But then our Gospel suggests that maybe we, like the disciples, have a lot to learn about how God loves. Mark shows us that Jesus is living a new kind of love.
Imagine the situation. John the Baptist has been murdered. The new disciples are returning from their first “apostolic gig”. They, and probably Jesus, are shocked, saddened and tired. Jesus recognizes this and tells them:
“Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while.”
But instead the hungry crowds followed them, their needs intruding on the deserved and desired solitude. The disciples sound a little annoyed in their practicality:
By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said,Mark 6: 35-36
“This is a deserted place and it is already very late.
Dismiss them so that they can go
to the surrounding farms and villages
and buy themselves something to eat.”
But when Jesus saw the crowd, his response was not annoyance or practicality.
When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd…Mark 6:34
In the Greek translation, the word for “moved with pity” is “ἐσπλαγχνίσθη” (Esplanchnisthē) – “splancha”
“Splancha”, in my mind, says that the heart of Jesus ”rumbled with mercy”; that he was so shaken to his roots with compassion that he pulled heaven down in a miracle to feed these people who were hungry at every level of their being.
The crowds, and indeed the disciples, are surprised not just by the cataract of fish and bread. But they are even more deeply astounded at this astounding demonstration of how God loves – with impractical, unlimited, immediate, miraculous generosity!
The lesson for us? Just as the disciples were commissioned to distribute the basketsful of miracles, we are charged to carry God’s mercy in our time.
Through the grace of Baptism, we have it within us to be the agent of miracles – the power to let God love through us. As John encourages us:
Beloved, let us love one another,1 John 4:7
because love is of God;
everyone who loves is begotten by God and knows God.
Poetry: Miracles by Robert William Service
Each time that I switch on the light
A Miracle it seems to me
That I should rediscover sight
And banish dark so utterly.
One moment I am bleakly blind,
The next–exultant life I find.
Below the sable of the sky
My eyelids double darkness make.
Sleep is divine, yet oh how I
Am glad with wonder to awake!
To welcome, glimmery and wan
The mighty Miracle of Dawn.
For I’ve mad moments when I seem,
With all the marvel of a child,
To dwell within a world of dream,
To sober fact unreconciled.
Each simple act has struck me thus–
When everything I see and do
So magical can seem to me,
How vain it is to seek the True,
The riddle of Reality . . .
So let me with joy lyrical
Proclaim all Life a Miracle.
Music: Beloved, Let Us Love One Another – a perky encouragement for your prayer 🙂