Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.
When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.”
Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
New Revised Standard Version, copyright 1989, by the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved. USCCB approved.
Before performing the great multiplication of the loaves, Jesus hears of the death of his cousin. Naturally, Jesus responds by retreating by himself, presumably to mourn, or to pray alone as he often does. The news of John’s death, however, is nearly eclipsed by the miracle that follows. I wonder how these two events inform one another? For example, is Jesus’s empathy for the sick and hungry crowd rooted in his recent experience of hurt and loss? Perhaps it is the very heartache and loss that he felt for John that allowed him to feel pity for the crowd. Like Jesus, many of us have been touched by death. Is there, in my own life, an experience of loss that gives rise to greater empathy for the suffering crowds? Or, instead, has my own loss caused me to close in on myself? Loss and pain will be constants in our lives, but the empathy they can teach us is not as guaranteed.
—Deacon David A. Lugo, SJ, is a transitional deacon of the Central and Southern Province who will be ordained to the priesthood on August 15th in St. Louis, MO. He studies theology at Comillas Pontifical University in Madrid, Spain.
Lord Jesus, I am grateful that you always listen to me with love and compassion. Teach me to be like you so that I may listen to others and truly understand them. Strengthen my commitment to addressing the suffering of others, so that I may walk in your loving footsteps, responding as you do to the many needs of our world. Amen.
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