Mark 6: 30-34
30 And the apostles gathered together unto Jesus, and told him all that they had done, and all that they had taught. 31 Jesus said to them, "You, come and go to a desert place, rest a little. In fact, the people who came and went were so numerous that they did not even have the chance to eat. 32 Then they went by boat to withdraw to a deserted place. 33 But the people saw them moving away, and many of them understood what was happening, and walking on foot, they ran from all the cities to this place, and preceded them. 34 When he had disembarked, Jesus saw an immense crowd, and was filled with compassion for all those people who were like sheep deprived of a shepherd; so he started teaching them a lot.
Know your garden well before teaching gardening
Gospel commentary - Homily
How to show the north pole
It was recently reported that a Muslim woman, elected to the Palestinian legislative elections, defended polygamy. According to her, love is made of sacrifices, and her sacrifice to her is to share her husband with another woman so young that she could be his daughter. Many of us may be stunned by such a vision of love and such practices. On the other hand, at home, at the other end of the spectrum, there is the club of swingers where people, free from all constraints, seek to give a little spice to their life as a couple. How to give a truly liberating direction to one's life? It is in this context that I hear the Gospel of this day: "Jesus saw an immense crowd, and was filled with compassion for all those people who were like sheep deprived of a shepherd; so he started teaching them a lot."
This verse that we have just quoted is situated in a context where Jesus sent his disciples on mission, where he invited them to preach and heal people. To be sent on mission is to be called to give, both in spirit and in physical terms. But what exactly does giving mean? How can one give? How can we teach people who are confused and who are in search, thirsty for love and light? Let's take a closer look at our story.
The apostles who had been sent on mission gathered around Jesus. What does this one do? He said to them, "You, come and go to a desert place, rest a little". This is how they will isolate themselves to meet each other. Why? The answer is simple: one can only give oneself if one has first taken the time to find oneself.
The symbolism of the boat and the deserted place brings us back to our own journey, to this long journey where we have accepted to enter in ourselves, to discover who we really are. We can not begin this journey without "resting", i.e. without distancing ourselves from the world that assails us, which tells us: "Go right, go left!" This world that assails us includes both religious prohibitions and fashionable ideas. This long journey to oneself is essential, because we can not give what we do not have, we can not show the north pole if we have not found ourselves for ourselves. If we do not accept this trip, we will only repeat our individual, family or collective superego, we will never stop conveying rigid principles or ideas of the day. We can indoctrinate or blame, without ever really liberating anyone.
Our story does not present this trip as a journey alone, but a journey with others, around Jesus, the one who presents himself as the good shepherd. Brotherhood, warmth and support from others are essential in this journey. I need their eyes, I need their echo, I need their patience as I need their tenderness. As a Christian, I also need to know that I was preceded by someone who walked for more than thirty years in his patheline of Galilee before speaking publicly, and that Jesus of Nazareth now accompanies me.
What is happening in this desert place where Jesus led his apostles? This is where they find the crowd. When I have been able to take the road of my being and have decided to go all the way, I am able to meet others, I am able to see them and to deeply understand what they are experiencing: "Jesus saw a immense crowd, says the Gospel, and was taken with compassion". When I can tame my identity, when I can say where the north pole is to me, I am able to guide others: "Jesus, says the Gospel, began to teach these people who were like sheep without shepherds". When I am able to find myself, I can give: this is how our story is followed by this scene in which Jesus and his apostles feed five thousand people.
In my workplace, I find Muslims as well as Buddhists, Christians, both active and non active. I am called to help them find their own north pole, depending on where they are. However, at the starting point, I have to find a place where I can immerse myself in my roots, be it the life of a couple or my community. Am I able to find such a place?
-André Gilbert, Gatineau, April 2006