A Call to Compassion

Matthew 14: 13-21
Jer 28:1-17 / Psa 119

They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.
(Matthew 14:16)

In God’s compassion just believe,
He grants to everyone who prays;
What little that we have to give
He will increase it with His grace.

When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed Him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, He had compassion on them and healed their sick. As evening approached, the disciples came to Him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.” Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish.” “Bring them here to me,” He said. And He directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, He looked up to heaven, gave thanks and broke the loaves. He gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children. (Matthew 14:13-21)

Reflection

Our Lord was trying to withdraw to a deserted place by himself in order to find solace and space to grieve over the death of His cousin, John the Baptist, who had recently been executed by King Herod. But the crowds sought him out and followed Him, even when Jesus and His apostles had gone out far from the villages. They hungered for His healing and His Word. And now it was getting late, and the disciples wanted to dismiss the crowds “so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves” (Mt.14:15). But Jesus, the Good Shepherd did not want His flock wandering off by themselves, and taking pity on them, He had them sit down on the grass, as He multiplied the five loaves and two fish to feed the crowd of more than five thousand. Just for good measure (that the children may have some food to bring home with them), they picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers.

Like the disciples of Jesus, we tend to pass on to someone else the responsibility when the task appears beyond our capability, as in the case of the hungry multitude, we try to let them solve their own problem. But our Lord shows us in today’s Gospel that we must face the problem squarely. “You give them something to eat.” He wants us to take the initiative, as nothing is impossible when we have enough love to handle the situation. When we choose to lead because of love, we cannot send away those in need of help. Instead, we find a way to help them.

At times we get so preoccupied with our own problems that we dismiss the “small” people who come to us with their little problems, and even regard them as a nuisance. Little do we know that by helping them out, the Lord will in turn help us with our own problems. Total service is what true Christian leadership is all about. To lead is to serve; to be great in the eyes of God, we must be willing to be the slave of those we lead. And God, Who taught us this wisdom in the lessons of Jesus will surely help us surmount whatever trials and problems may come our way.

In the times when we are beset by problems or difficulties, help us, Father to be even more cordial, more kind and generous to those who come to us for help, as Jesus was during the time of His grief. Amen.

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