The perennial question: ‘how are we to live our lives?’ which is usually followed by the perennial answer: ‘as Christ showed us’. Today’s Gospel is one of those teaching moments from Christ. I don’t mean we are to take two fish and five loaves and feed over 5,000 people – that is a miracle and I leave them to Jesus. And though we can take from this Gospel the obligation to care for the needy (and that is a great lesson); that isn’t what caught my eye this week. After all, even the secular world tries to take care of the needy, sometimes very well. Our government, as an example, has an extensive social program. But that is a discussion for another time.
It is at the very beginning of the Gospel that I was struck by what it means to live our life as Christ.
“When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with compassion for them, and he cured their sick.” (Matthew 14: 13 – 14)
Here is a powerful moment of Christian living. Jesus had just heard that His cousin had been executed: and as any person would do; He removed Himself from the crowd to be alone, to grieve, to come to terms with the struggle of life in all its unfairness – to cope with loss. God though He is, He is also fully man and feels as man. But, as we see, He couldn’t do that. The people had followed Him into a desolate region, they needed Him, and in spite of His personal pain He tended them. He put those around Him before His own needs, in spite of the tremendous hurt He was feeling – because of the tremendous love He felt for everyone.
Ask any priest about having to sacrifice self for others; they will tell you of those 2am calls that, regardless of their own personal situation, they respond to. Talk with any mother or father who is up all night with their baby knowing they have to work all day. Remember those times that you were in similar situations – the sacrifice and the joy. The willing sacrifice of self for others – love in its greatest form – is what Jesus is showing us; what He expects from His followers; what His followers gladly offer Him through those they minister to. The Cross of Love that we strive each day to take up and follow Jesus – is, or at least should be, how we live our life.