A scholarly attempt at an interpretation of Sunday's liturgical readings.

Many of us have felt the experience of the death of a family member.  This can be a devastating moment in our lives because the emotions tend to  run raw, and it seems as if the feelings take over our decision making.  In fact, we can easily discover that emotions appear to dominate the motivation of our behavior–either for good or for evil.

In the Gospel for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Matthew 14:13-21) Jesus becomes aware of the death of his cousin John the Baptist.  No doubt that they were close.  So, burdened by the feelings of loss, Jesus goes away to a quiet place presumably to give vent to his emotions.  Undoubtedly, he went to pray.

But many people from surrounding villages  followed him–even to his place of  “quiet.” The Gospel tells us that when Jesus became aware of so many people,  his “heart was moved with pity.”  Most likely that emotion was caused by the earlier news of the death of John the Baptist.  Sensitivity makes one very aware not only  of one’s own feelings, but also the feelings of others.  Thus, while experiencing this emotion of “pity, ” he healed many sick people.

But something more surprising followed.  Due to his sensitive disposition, Jesus noted that the people were hungry.  The disciples suggested that the folks go into town and buy something to eat.  In effect, Jesus said “No!  You give them something to eat.”  Almost apologetically, the disciples said, “All we have are five loaves of bread and two fish.  What is that among so many?”  Jesus finally said, “Bring to me what you have.”

Then, in a ritual form, which is currently used at the consecration of Mass, Jesus (1)-looked up to heaven, (2)-said the blessing, (3)-broke the bread, and (4)-and gave the food to the disciples to give to the people.  All the people were adequately fed and there were several baskets of  food left over.

It may be safe to say that Jesus, because his heart was moved with pity at the hunger of those present,  performed a miracle–the multiplication of the loaves and fish.

What can we learn from this Gospel?  First of all, we can learn that emotions play a large part in our dealing with other people.   It makes us more aware of their needs.   If our hearts are “moved with pity,” because of their suffering, then we respond positively.  In the face of injustice  we proclaim justice.  In the face of hostility we proclaim compassion.  Who knows?  Perhaps because of our feelings of  justice and compassion, a mireacle could well occur.

Secondly, if we felt sad or burdened because of some tragedy, Jesus would often see us with a “heart moved with pity” and he would take care of us.  In our dealings with others, we should confront them as if our “hearts were moved with pity,” so that we could see them as meriting our love and concern.

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