Saturday of Week 4 of Ordinary Time – Gospel

Commentary on Mark 6:30-34

The Twelve came back from their mission full of excitement at all they had done and taught. Jesus now told them to withdraw for a while for reflection and rest. This is what Jesus himself used to do. Large crowds were still mobbing Jesus and perhaps some of the apostles too, so much so that they did not even have time to eat. This could have been a real time of temptation as the apostles began to glory in their new-found power and the resultant fame and popularity.

We also see here once more the balance in Jesus’ life. He was so available to all those in need, the poor, the sick, the outcasts, but there was a limit to his availability. He knew when he needed to get away, to renew contact with his Father, to recharge his batteries (see Mark 1:35-37).

Some people are too self-centred and have a very poor awareness of other people’s needs and do not bother to meet them. On the other hand, there are those who need to be needed. Their need is to have people looking constantly for them, but the result can often be ‘burnout’ or breakdowns. There are times when we have to learn to be able to say ‘No’ without feeling guilty.

So Jesus and his disciples take off in a boat to a solitary place where they will be left to themselves. Or, that is what they thought they did. But the people saw them leaving and had a good idea where they were headed. While Jesus and his disciples crossed the lake in a boat, the people hurried along the lakeshore. When Jesus stepped out of the boat, he was again faced by a huge crowd.

Jesus quickly decides that this is a time for availability. He is deeply moved by the people’s need; they were like lost sheep in need of a shepherd’s guidance. The people coming out to a desert place echoes the people of Israel in their wanderings. Here, Jesus is the Shepherd of the New Israel. So he begins to teach them. Their first hunger was spiritual. They needed to understand what Jesus stood for and why he did the things he did. There is a Eucharistic connection here and in what follows (the multiplication of loaves), and the teaching corresponds to what we now call the Liturgy of the Word during the Eucharist.

The story illustrates well the balance in Jesus’ life. As he did himself, he urges his disciples to retire and reflect on the meaning of what they are doing. Otherwise they may become active for activity’s sake, or for other less worthy motives. At the same time, in this particular situation, Jesus sees that a response is called for. The day of reflection is abandoned, and the people in their great need are served.

Let us learn, through careful discernment, to do likewise. To do the right thing at the right time.

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