16th Sunday in Ordinary Time. July 18, 2021.
Jer 23:1-6; Eph 2:13-18; Mk 6:30-34
Sharing in Jesus’ compassionate gaze today
A lady asked me to pray for her at a particular hour on a given day when she was scheduled to take her second dose of Covid-19 vaccine. I prayed for her, guessing that she needed prayers that the vaccine would be effective and without debilitating side effects.
I found myself wondering why all the fear and anxiety about these vaccines that many people claim are safe and effective. It appears people are more afraid of the vaccine than the actual virus itself!
The truth is that there is so much fear and anxiety about these vaccines because we are not being told the whole truth about them. Those who say to us, “Take the jab,” claim that it is safe, healthy, tested, and the only available remedy to the virus. Those who say to us, “Do not take the jab,” claim that the vaccines have not been subjected to the required tests and they provide many evidences that these vaccines can and have caused blood clots, heart enlargements, and even deaths. There is division as those who try to dissuade others from taking the jab are censored and cancelled by mass media. When we do not have the whole truth about the vaccines, but are fed lies and falsehood, fear and anxiety will prevail over peace in our hearts. Also, our families and communities will be divided because of this lack of truth.
When Jesus saw the crowd following Him, “His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd.” He saw their every need in their details – their hunger, the fear in their eyes, the sicknesses they bore, their confused hearts, their abandonment and scatteredness, their vulnerability, etc. Jesus’ first act of compassion in response to their needs was to teach them truth, “He began to teach them many things.”(Mk 6:34)
Why would He begin by teaching them truth? He did so because there is no peace without the truth that Jesus embodies Himself and offers to us, “I am the way, the Truth and the Life.”(Jn 14:6) Without this truth of who God is, who we are before God as His children, and what our relationship with God demands from us at every moment, nothing on this earth will ever bring us inner peace and peace with others.
St. Paul’s declaration, “For He (Christ) is our peace,” is true because Jesus is the Incarnate Word, God’s truth in human flesh. Everything about Jesus Christ – His person, words, actions, body, blood, etc. – is peace giving because everything in Him gives witness to the truth of God’s love for us and what our response to this love ought to be. Because of His shed blood, “we who were once far off have become near.” Through His flesh, He has “broken down the dividing wall of enmity.” In His body, He has “reconciled both (Jews and Gentiles) with God.” Through the cross, He has “put (our) enmity to death.” His speaks words of peace to all, “to those who are far off and peace to those who are near.” Lastly, we also have access to the Spirit of truth and His peace through His death, “For through Him we have access in one Spirit to the Father.”(Eph 2:13-18)
Let us remind ourselves that what deprives us of inner peace and causes division between others and us in our families, Church and world, are the lies and deceits that we believe, condone, and communicate to others in words, actions, and omissions. These lies divide and leave us with fear. By participating in the truth that Christ brings and knowing His peace through this truth, the Church and all her members are to be channels of Christ’s peace and truth in our world today. This is our vocation as witnesses of truth in every time and place.
We seem to have forgotten the inseparable connection between truth and peace today. We believe a lie when we consider all other religions as having the same power to save as Christianity and we fail to affirm Jesus Christ as the one and only Savior of the world. We reject the truth of the inviolable sanctity of every innocent human life. We cannot defend the truth of the sacredness of the Holy Eucharist and the need to receive Holy Communion only in a state of grace and with full consent of mind, heart and lifestyle with the teachings of the Church. We are constantly fed lies about sexual and financial abuses and wicked cover-up.
We accept the lie that homosexual relationships can be beneficial and even embraced as another form of marital union. We accept the lie that we can blend pagan worship with the Catholic faith as evidenced in the Pachamama debacle. We accept the lie of transgenderism and reject the truth and meaning of the human body as being created male and female by God. We allow, endorse, promote, and praise heretical clergy who spew poison from their lips but we sanction clergy who try to teach the truths of the Catholic faith.
My dear brothers and sisters in Christ, these lies against what we believe as Catholics, how we worship, and how we live our faith are what destroys our peace and divide our community. We are also reaping the disastrous consequences of these lies in two ways. We have the crippling inner fears we experienced in this Covid pandemic and the divisions that are raging within the Church today. We just cannot blame these fears and divisions in the Church on anything else, not even on the traditional Latin mass!
Our first challenge in these times of fear and divisions is to know the saving truths of Jesus Christ. These truths are written into our very nature by God and they are knowable by sound reason that has not been clouded by sin. These truths are also revealed in the Scriptures and Tradition, taught authoritatively in the Church, and exemplified in the lives of the saints.
Secondly, we must go deeper in the truth through our communion with Christ. We must tell Him honestly what we truly believe and why we believe them. We must allow Him to reveal to us the many lies and half-truths that we have come to believe over time. What He reveals to us will surely lead us to greater inner freedom, “You will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”(Jn 8:32)
Thirdly, we must vehemently resist the many lies and deceits that are prevalent in our days, lies that are sadly often coming from those who have been charged with teaching and defending the truths of the faith. These lies deny the true knowledge of God, who we are before Him and the holy life that we are called and graced for today. We must resist these lies because the Devil needs only one lie to fill us with fear by giving us a distorted view of God, ourselves, others and all reality.
Lastly, we must be ready to share this truth with others in a way that is compassionate and hopeful. One thing about truth of Jesus Christ is that we cannot live for ourselves when we possess this truth. We are moved to forget ourselves and to live for God and for others as we move to share this truth with others in words and action.
Let us learn from Mary to be close to Jesus and also be ready to reflect His truth to others in need. Her first act of compassion towards the needs of the wedding guests at Cana was a prayer to Jesus, “They have no wine.” After speaking with Jesus, she then invited the servants to listen to the truth from His lips and act on it, “Do whatever He tells you.” She shows us that our compassion towards others is false without this willingness to bring all to the whole truth in Jesus. We need Mary to help us recognize the truth today, hold on to it and act on it.
The world is looking at us too today. They are hungry for many things, spiritual and material. Their greatest hunger is for truth, the saving truth that Jesus personifies and offers to us in the Church through His Spirit, “The Spirit will guide you to all truth.”(Jn 16:13) In short, they want to see the compassionate face of Jesus in us. They must not see indifference, anger or harshness in our eyes, but the same compassionate look that we have seen on the face of Jesus.
Jesus, our Eucharistic Lord, continues to look at this world with pity because we all are always needy, like sheep without a shepherd. We must not only share in His divine life in the Eucharist but also share in His compassionate gaze on this world that is filled with fear and division. If we share in His compassionate gaze, we will receive the grace to respond to the needs of others just like Jesus did, beginning with offering them the whole truth. Again, why should we begin with truth? Because without the whole truth, the saving truth of Jesus Christ, nothing will ever bring us peace in this world and in the world to come.
Glory to Jesus!!! Honor to Mary!!!