16th Sunday OTB

Jer 23:1-6   Eph 2:13-18          Mk 6:30-34

Once a man went to see a friend of his who was a professor at a great university. However, as they sat chatting in the professor’s office, they were continually interrupted by students who came knocking at the door, seeking the professor’s advice about something or other. Each time the professor rose from his chair, went to the door, and dealt with the student’s request. Eventually the visitor asked the professor, ‘How do you manage to get any work done with so many interruptions? ‘At first I used to resent the interruptions to my work. But one day it suddenly dawned on me that the interruptions were my work,’ the professor replied.

That professor could have locked himself away and devoted his time to his own private work. Instead he made his work consist in being available to his students. It was no surprise that he was greatly loved by the students. And it was no coincidence that he was one of the happiest and most fulfilled professors on the campus.

Dear friends! An act of kindness is judged, not so much by its importance, but by the disruption it causes in the life of the one who does it. It’s a great test for people to put aside their own plans to help another person.

It’s a consolation for us to know that Jesus too had to cope with interruptions. He too had his plans upset. Today’s gospel tells us that he was in such demand that he and his apostles scarcely had 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.

This time he wasn’t thinking of himself but of his apostles. They had just come back from the mission on which he had sent them. He saw that they needed a rest. So he decided to take them off to a quiet place. The carers too need to be cared for.

However, things didn’t work out as planned. The people followed them. How did Jesus react? Far from getting annoyed, he received the people. This tells us a lot about the kind of person he was. He was moved with pity for them. He saw that they were leaderless. The official teachers had no time for the ordinary people. But Jesus had time for them. This is why they flocked to him.

Caring is never easy. Some people are willing to care a little, provided they are in the mood, and it’s not too inconvenient, and doesn’t upset their own plans. But to care as Jesus did, even when it does upset one’s plan- that’s the real test. Parents do it all the time. How many times they have to get out of bed at night to see to a child?

All of us are capable of caring. The need for caring people is great. Neglect is widespread in our society. Mother Teresa tells us how one day she visited an old people’s home in Sweden. It was efficiently run. The food was good. The staff was trained. And treated the old people well. It seemed an ideal place in which to end one’s days.

There were about forty elderly people in the home. They seemed to have everything they wanted. Yet as she went around she noticed that none of them smiled. She also noticed something else. They kept looking towards the door. She asked one of the nurses why this was so. ‘They are longing for someone to come to visit them,’ the nurse replied. ‘They are always looking, and thinking, “May be my son, maybe my daughter, maybe somebody will come and visit me today.” But no one comes. It’s the same every day.’

‘No one comes!’ The phrase haunted Mother Teresa. These elderly people had been put away in this home by their families and then abandoned. That sense of having been abandoned was by far their greatest suffering.

Sometimes a person may have no choice but to put an elderly parent in a home. However, it’s the spirit in which this is done that matters. Having put an elderly parent in a home, one person may abandon that parent, whereas another visits that parent regularly.

A Christian who doesn’t care is like a lamp that doesn’t give light. Jesus our Good Shepherd is asking us to have the compassionate heart. All of us are capable of caring. All that is required is an open heart. When we care, we are living the Gospel.