The disciples have just returned from their first missionary journey, which we heard about last Sunday. They were tired from their efforts, but at the same time filled with a sense of joy and excitement as they recalled all they had said and done. Jesus, knowing their weariness, tells them to come away with him and rest for a while. He knew also that this rest would give them opportunity to reflect on the graces they had just encountered on their mission.
A similar scenario happens each week as we gather for the Eucharist. We come here weary from the events of the past week. Hopefully we come here also with a sense of joy and excitement at the many ways Christ worked through us this past week. We come here to be fed so that we can continue our mission for yet another week.
It is important to note that this gospel story precedes immediately Mark’s account of the miracle of the loaves and fishes. For the next five weeks we are going to reflect on that miracle as we read from John’s bread of life discourses. This event was so important that the evangelists recall the story six times in the four gospels. Although the details of the stories vary from author to author, they all agree that this miracle is tied intimately to our celebration of the Eucharist, in which Jesus takes bread and wine, transforms them into his body and blood, and then feeds us.
An important thing to note about Mark’s account is that Jesus does not perform this miracle solely on his own. Rather he empowers the disciples to be a part of the miracle with the words, “Give them some food yourselves” (Mark 6:37). He then takes what little they have, five loaves and two fish, and from their gifts feeds the thousands that were there.
In a similar way, each time we gather for the celebration of the Eucharist Jesus takes what little we have, bread and wine, and feeds us. As we eat and drink he refreshes our weary souls, and enriches us with the grace we need to continue our mission in the world. In other words, what we do here does not stop here. Each one of us is entrusted with the power to transform our world. Each one of us is to be a shepherd, leading others to Jesus, the Good Shepherd. We do this in our words and in our deeds. We do this through sharing our faith.
Our task in the world is much more than merely feeding the hungry and clothing the naked. Our task is much more than merely changing unjust laws and systems that oppress people. Good humanitarian non-believers do these things every single day. As baptized believers our task is to be Christ in our world. In other words, as we carry out the corporal and spiritual works of mercy, we are also to share with others the faith we have been given.
Parents are to do this first and foremost with their children. You can’t just bring your children to Church for the sacraments and think that is enough. You can’t just drop off your children at Religious Education Classes or enroll them in our Catholic Schools and think that is enough. You must have the conversations of faith in your home. You must instill the discipline of prayer into your children so that they will develop a relationship with Christ. The Church can assist you with the head-knowledge, but only you have the real power to help them to know and love Christ with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength.
Beyond the home, each one of us must be the presence of Christ in the marketplace and in the workplace. This means not turning a deaf ear to idle talk but rather calling people to task when they are engaging in inappropriate conversations. This means also speaking the words of truth, as revealed to us in our faith, when others are confused by the many false opinions that are clamoring for our attention.
Through the waters of baptism we were anointed into Jesus’ threefold ministry of priest, prophet, and king. As priest we are to transform the world through our sacred presence. As prophet we are speak the words of truth to a world that so often does not want to hear the truth. As king, we are to be a people who live in the world, but who belong to a kingdom beyond this world. This means placing Christ and his kingdom before all earthly kingdoms.
This is our mission. It is a difficult mission. It can drain us of every personal resource we have. It can truly weary our souls. But it is our mission nonetheless. Christ is expecting us to perform this mission and when we allow Him to guide us and lead us we will be filled with the joy and excitement that comes with being His disciples. And so today we have come to this out of the way place so that we can find rest for our weary souls. Eat and drink and be filled with the graces you need to continue your mission for one more week. Eat and drink of the body and blood, soul and divinity of Christ.