It seems to me that Jesus’ interaction with the crowds that followed him provides us with an example of the lesson that there is a time for self-care, but there is also a time for putting our own concerns aside and simply offering ourselves as channels of compassion for those around us who are in need.
– Alan Brehm
The readings for the eighteenth Sunday in ordinary time cycle A can be found here.
The scripture scholar will tell you that this is not the only miracle around feeding others within Matthew (15:32-39). The people of the Gospel reading are believed to represent all of Israel. Jesus feeds the people of Israel reminiscent of the manna and quail of Exodus or the multiplication of the oil and bread in 2 Kings. It should be noted that the chapter 15 feeding miracle is believed to represent the feeding of the gentiles.
Aside from the symbolism of the multitude representing Israel and the 12 baskets left over representing the 12 tribes under the 12 apostles, there is symbolism that points toward the Last Supper. There is a lot packed into these few verses and the subject we are going to touch on is leadership in community.
… It was very bad news, and when Jesus heard it he withdrew in a boat to a lonely place apart, but when the crowds heard it they followed him on foot from the towns. He may have needed to be alone, but they had needs of their own. They were sick, they were sad, they were hungry, and while anyone but the son of God might have ordered them to get lost, Jesus had compassion on them. His heart went out to them…
– Barbara Brown Taylor (The Seeds of Heaven p.49)
The disciples saw that many people had come to Jesus in their hope for healing. Some estimates are that 10 percent of the Jewish people of the time were there at the event. That is beyond a fair amount of people. The disciples were rightly alarmed about the logistics related to this many people, but Jesus did not send them away as the disciples asked. No, instead Jesus asked the disciples to take some initiative and become leaders. The crowd control seemed daunting but Jesus was teaching the disciples to have some self-confidence and care for the community. This would not be the last time the disciples would have to lead God’s community, so successfully managing this event would greatly increase their self-confidence.
I believe that Jesus was expressing a basic law governing human growth into spiritual maturity. As humans, we must grow from dependence on external authority to dependence on an authority that dwells within us.
– Fr. John J. McNeill
As disciples of Jesus we are called to leadership in service to the community. The lesson for us today is that Jesus expects us to grow in spiritual maturity. When you see the needs of God’s community take the initiative to serve. Jesus’ example in the act of serving others is also the act of leading.
We are not centered in the particular events that happened over 2,000 years ago in a tiny outpost of the Roman Empire. We are centered in the life of the living, risen Christ as it is expressed through the life of community today!
– Rt. Reverend Mary Douglass Glasspool
If you take one one thing away from this homily it should be to recognize the needs of others and put the care of others before your own needs whenever possible. Spiritual maturity will increase with every moment you take the initiative to be a leader in God’s community. Even a small act of service to another is enough. I pray that we all begin to understand that the success of our community relies on service. Our maturity and self-confidence helps us to achieve great things together.