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the Dominican Sisters and Nuns of Springfield, IL.
When you read, or hear, in Mark’s gospel that Jesus is planning a
quiet retreat for himself or his disciples, you can be sure their
rest is going to be interrupted by the needs of the people. Mark is
a busy gospel and that’s what happens in today’s passage. The
apostles return from the preaching and healing ministry Jesus had
sent them on – remember last week’s gospel (6: 7-13)? Today we are
told that they, "gathered together with Jesus," the way sheep gather
with their shepherd, and that they made a report of their preaching
mission. Jesus invites them to come apart with him to "a deserted
place and rest awhile."
But Mark’s is not a gospel for resting, there is much to do;
there are many needy people. It sounds like it was written
yesterday, a modern gospel for modern disciples who have too many
pressing needs, too limited energies, too many distractions, too
much confusion about what’s really important and what’s just busy
work that distracts us from our calling. Yes, "calling," whether we
are full time paid ministers, church volunteers, or people leading
very busy and demanding lives – the kind Jesus and his disciples
lead in Mark’s gospel. If any of the above describes your life, then
Mark is the gospel for you.
Jesus had sent the apostles out to do the very things he was
doing, teaching, healing and driving out demons. In this
action-filled gospel one event follows quickly upon another. We can
sense the rush of activity and can understand the need Jesus and his
apostles have for rest and regrouping. I wonder if Jesus not only
wanted to give his disciples a chance to rest, but also to remind
them about all that discipleship would entail – not just
enthusiastic acceptance by the multitudes, but the cross, pain and
sacrifice of true discipleship.
If the disciples don’t include the cross in their understanding
of ministry they will fail as Jesus’ followers. At first, that’s
what happens, because when Jesus meets his cross, they scatter. Mark
was writing for a community that was facing the cross of persecution
and his gospel is trying to show that early church and us, not to
measure ourselves by worldly standards of success and failure. Maybe
that is why Jesus is trying to pull his disciples away from the
popularity spotlight – to instruct them more fully on discipleship.
Maybe we too have to go against the tides of rush and busyness to
evaluate our call to follow Jesus and the consequences it has on our
lives. Even those of us who are already involved in church, or
public service, must ask ourselves if there are people we are
neglecting and other needs to address. Are there people or services
we must attend to that might not be as noticed, or as lauded as what
we are now doing – but might be where we are being called to live
out our discipleship?
There are those of us who sense we are ministering in the right
places and should continue doing so, whether at home, the public
market place, or at our church. Nevertheless, Jesus is the shepherd
who tends to the needs of disciples and calls us, now and then, to
rest. He takes his flock to a "deserted place," where they won’t be
distracted and will be able to focus on the food he wants to give
them – his presence and his word. As he is doing for us at this
Eucharist. He sees that we need to gather around our Shepherd. He
wants to give us what we must have to continue as his disciples. For
some we may need more time to focus, reflect and be nourished.
Surely our parish offers periods of retreat, renewal and input. And
for those who can manage to get away, there are retreat houses and
spirituality centers. There are various modern "deserted places,"
where Jesus would be with us to help us gather our scattered
Jesus sees the needy "vast crowd" and, as their shepherd, he
decides to feed them. First, he will teach them, because their
spirits need the food he has for them. Then he will give them food
for their bodies. He immediately spots their more severe hungers
for, "they were like sheep without a shepherd and he began to teach
them many things." Mark is showing us that Jesus is more than
sufficient for us. You can sense the chaos and "lostness" of the
people, they are a crowd – a leaderless and directionless crowd.
They need a shepherd who can teach and direct them; bring order and
vision to their lives.
Jesus’ compassion is frequently stirred by a person’s physical
condition, because they are blind, deaf, crippled, etc. But this
crowd needs something even more important than a physical cure; they
need to know and be with Jesus. Have you ever been with someone
seriously ill and been moved by their calm faith? I wonder how they
can seem so trusting in such dire straits? It is obvious their faith
has another source, other than themselves. You sense that Jesus has
taken notice of them, the way he did the crowd, "his heart was moved
with pity for them...." You realize the sick person has been taught
by Christ himself, given food in a "deserted place" that no one else
could provide under the circumstances.
The promise we heard in Jeremiah is being fulfilled in Jesus.
About Israel’s scattered sheep, God has said, "...I myself will
gather the remnant of my flock...." That’s what God is doing. God
sent a new Shepherd whose heart was moved with compassion for the
scattered sheep, just as God’s was. Just prior to today’s passage we
learn of John the Baptist’s death at Herod’s command. This threat of
death foreshadows today’s gospel passage and suggests that Jesus too
will be killed and his disciples will have to be the shepherds to
guide the scattered flock. They won’t be able to do this on their
own, for at Jesus’ death they too will scatter. But his resurrection
will bring them power to follow in the Shepherd’s footprints. Like
Jesus, they will give their lives to be true shepherds.
Jesus sees the vast and needy crowd and his first reaction isn’t
annoyance at having the quiet break he planned for himself and his
disciples interrupted. Instead, Mark tells us, when Jesus sees the
crowd, "his heart was moved with pity for them." Usually we don’t
like the world "pity." It sounds so condescending. When we really
are annoyed with someone, a way of telling them how disgusted and
disappointed we are is to say, "I pity you."
But we know, from Jesus’ subsequent care for the people, that his
pity isn’t condescending. It is more a deep feeling of concern, like
the kind that moves us to act on another’s behalf. We see or hear of
another’s pain and we feel pity or compassion and decide to do
something for them. This exchange between someone’s need and our
response transcends the usual barriers that often separate humans:
race, gender, nationality, economics, etc. When we feel pity for
another, we are united with God whose compassion goes out to all God
has created – humans and the very earth itself.
Throughout Mark’s gospel those following Jesus are usually called
"disciples." But in today’s passage they are called "apostles." It
is the only time in the gospel that Mark uses this title. It’s a new
name for them and suggests a new relationship with Jesus. The
Shepherd is preparing "apostles," then and now, those to be sent in
his name to teach and act as he did.
for a link to this Sunday’s readings:
We have posted an article by Lyle C. May, an inmate on
Raleigh’s Death Row, entitled, "Race, Innocence and the
End of the Death Penalty."
and click on "Justice Preaching."
dwell in the house of the Lord for years to come.
I have always loved the passages that speak of God’s house. I
think it is because home has always been so important to me from
childhood forward--a place of security, love, problems, and freedom.
For Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who lost his life opposing the Nazis, home
"is a kingdom of its own in the midst of the world, a stronghold
amid life’s storms and stresses, a refuge, even a sanctuary." Both
St. Pope John Paul II and Pope Francis have spoken eloquently that a
home is much more than a roof over one’s head. So it is with great
alarm that after over 30 years of volunteering with Habitat for
Humanity of Wake County, I am witnessing a silent crisis of the lack
of affordable housing in our county, in our state, and in our
In North Carolina alone, nearly 1.2 million households pay more
than 30% of their income on housing, and more than 500,000 pay more
than half of their income on housing. Through the Door Ministry here
at Cathedral, I have seen a drastic increase in rent that wage
increases have not matched. Thriving is difficult when so many
struggle just to pay for housing from month to month.
What can you do?
1) In 2007, NC State Government set up the Housing Trust Fund at
$20 million. Because of the housing crash, the fund was drastically
cut and is now only minimally maintained at $7.66 million. For every
dollar invested in the Fund, $4 of housing is leveraged, and a
recent policy brief concluded that every $1 spent in the Fund for
Urgent Repair yields $19 in Medicaid savings. For every $10 million
in the Fund, 700 jobs are supported, 1,300 housing units are built
or rehabilitated and $3.6 million in state and local tax revenue is
generated. Call your state legislator and ask them to restore the
original investment in 2019/2020.
2) Join the Catholic Coalition Habitat for Humanity’s 9th build
beginning the end of August. Contact HNOJ coordinator, Walt Milowic,
3) Contribute to the Door Fund for the Door Ministry. Envelopes
are in the information center in the Cathedral.
Tonight, if you are lucky enough to have a secure home, when you
are in bed looking at the ceiling above you, say a prayer for those
who are homeless or economically challenged and ask God what else
you can do to help.
Director of Social
Holy Name of Jesus
Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for
persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted
in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them,
were like sheep without a shepherd."
When Jesus sees the needy "vast crowd," he immediately spots
their severe hungers. They are without a leader. So, first, he will
teach them, because their spirits need the food he has for them.
They need a shepherd who can teach and direct them; bring order and
vision to their lives.
So we ask ourselves:
- If Christ were to ask, "For what do you hunger?" how would
we answer him?
- Where might we go to feed the hunger we feel?
POSTCARDS TO DEATH
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty
is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever
form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison
system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and
addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them
to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them
you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith
Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might
consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
- Danny Frogg #0137368 (On death row since 3/27/98)
- Allen Holman #0587681 (4/7/98)
- Timmy Grooms #0158506 (4/24/98)
---Central Prison 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death
penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the
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If you are a preacher, lead a Lectionary-based scripture group,
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these reflections as they prepare for Sunday liturgy.
You can order the CDs by going to our webpage:
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- Where you will find "Preachers’ Exchange," which includes
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Dominicales," as well as articles, book reviews, daily homilies
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4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those
wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the
Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent
weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above
you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the
Great Priory of Texas
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