By Father Felix (African Times Guest Writer)
A Reading from the Holy Gospel according to Mark (6:30-34).
At both beginning and end of this section of the Gospel we are reminded
that the foremost duty of the disciples is to be with Jesus: ‘they were
to be with him’ (Mark 3.14), whatever else they do. At the beginning
the disciples who had been sent out on their mission return to Jesus,
and at the end the much larger crowd ‘from every town’, who had
searched for him so determinedly and successfully, are welcomed and
pitied by Jesus.
Furthermore, he begins to teach them. The final quotation, ‘like sheep
without a shepherd’ is a clear allusion to the Israelites after the
death of Moses, who would be like sheep without a shepherd until Joshua
is appointed as leader (Numbers 27.17), and more widely to the LORD
sending a shepherd to replace the careless and self-indulgent shepherds
of Ezekiel 34.
As any car-driver on the village roads knows so well, sheep without a
shepherd are the epitome of helpless bewilderment. This will become
even clearer with the feeding of the five thousand in the green
pastures beside the restful waters of the Lake of Galilee (compare
Psalm 23 (Gk 22)).
The passage therefore serves as part of the discovery of who Jesus is:
his wonderful actions and his teaching have led the crowds to search
eagerly for him. He pities them and shows them the divine mercy – the
Greek word is related to ‘guts’, so it is a profound ‘gut-feeling’ –
and yet he repeatedly withdraws to be alone with his disciples to be
sure that they understand his teaching. To be alone with Jesus is an
essential part of their calling.