This Sunday's Gospel lection is the well-known story of Jesus miraculously multiplying 5 loaves and 2 fish, and feeding thousands of people. Here is the text from Matthew:
When Jesus heard what had happened, he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place. Hearing of this, the crowds followed him on foot from the towns. When Jesus landed and saw a large crowd, he had compassion on them and healed their sick.
As evening approached, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a remote place, and it’s already getting late. Send the crowds away, so they can go to the villages and buy themselves some food.”
Jesus replied, “They do not need to go away. You give them something to eat.”
“We have here only five loaves of bread and two fish,” they answered.
“Bring them here to me,” he said. And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people. They all ate and were satisfied, and the disciples picked up twelve basketfuls of broken pieces that were left over. The number of those who ate was about five thousand men, besides women and children.
At the outset of this section, I am struck by Jesus relationship to the crowds. At the beginning of chapter 14, we read of the execution of John the Baptist (Jesus's cousin) at the hands of Herod. After making a drunken bet during a licentious party, Herod, in order to keep face with his guests, had John beheaded. So, this lection begins with Jesus hearing that news. No doubt he was filled with grief and sorrow. No doubt he wanted some time away; in fact, the author makes that clear: "he withdrew by boat privately to a solitary place." The crowds continued to follow Jesus, and when he saw them, "he had compassion on them and healed their sick."
I'm struck that even in the midst of tremendous personal loss, Jesus's concern is still for the welfare of others. Given the human tendency to get so involved in our own "stuff" that we can become completely and totally self-absorbed. Our Lord continues to offer us his example of service and sacrifice. Certainly there is a need to deal with our own losses and times of tragedy; however, let's not lose sight of the struggles of others around us. May we never ceased to be "moved with compassion" for our sisters and brothers.