Many of us, perhaps all of us at some stage in life, wonder why it is that Christ gives so freely and readily of himself, why he gives us opportunity after opportunity to come to him. Beyond our recourse to sin and err from the Good News, he is always there, ready to lift us up.
This is very unlike many narratives in world news and current affairs, and indeed in personal relationships, which often seem to teach us that it is good to give up on people, that it is good to choose blame over forgiveness and revenge over peacefulness.
Christ, though, came with a very different message. He came to show us the way to freedom, to peace and the fulfilment of love. He did not give up on his sheep.
When we wonder, then, if Jesus is really there for us, let us remember today’s Gospel. He wanted to go away to a quiet place, yet, when he saw the crowds of people, he went to them, foregoing his wants, and spoke with them. He took pity on them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
The effect that the crowd had on him is pertinent to us, too. Firstly, it reminds us of Christ’s love, his empathy towards us, which means that he is always there for us, ready to pick us up, to teach us, to show us the way forward, even if only by a single step. Secondly, it is a window into the humanity of God, his extraordinary selflessness and empathy. And, through this example of empathy, he is challenging us to draw upon our own empathy and use it with others as he does with us.
How many lost sheep do we know or come into contact with? Our friends and family who are in need? Our work colleagues? The homeless who are so often on our streets, lost with nowhere to go? Perhaps we should listen to our empathy, and respond as did Christ.
Christ cared for that crowd in a paternal and beautiful way. And he does so for us, too. Whilst he remains with us always, givig us that constant recourse to his protection, so perhaps we might raise our self awareness of people around us who are lost, and respond in the ways of love.
A reading from the holy Gospel according to Mark
Glory to you, O Lord.
The apostles rejoined Jesus and told him all they had done and taught.
Then he said to them,
‘You must come away to some lonely place all by yourselves and rest for a while’; for there were so many coming and going that the apostles had no time even to eat. So they went off in a boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But people saw them going, and many could guess where; and from every town they all hurried to the place on foot and reached it before them.
So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd, and he set himself to teach them at some length.
The Gospel of the Lord.
Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ