Eleventh Sunday in Ordinary Time
It is hard to find brief escape from the multitude of crises and emergencies that demand our attention. For many of them, we are content to stand back and call in the professionals. Is there a doctor in the house? Call 911. It is a rare occasion when we are summoned to be the first responder with CPR or the Heimlich maneuver. The media load the screen with stories of shootings, devastation from war or nature, drowning migrants trying to find safety, and other incidents where life has ceased to be an option or possibility. We are forced to view what is beyond our ability to change. This creates a sense of impotence, helplessness, and hopelessness. We can only reconcile ourselves to what seems inevitable. There must be a program we can legislate to solve these problems. As with all reconciliations, it is fragile and temporary, holding only long enough as the balance of powers is maintained. We look out at what increasingly looks like a parched wasteland.
Jesus looked out at his surroundings and saw a field ripe for the harvest. He saw the crowds (turba) troubled and abandoned. The Greek word means let down and evokes the sense of disappointment and despair. Hopeless. They may not have looked at themselves this way. Like us, they might have considered themselves as can-do people, occupied with matters of great importance. The deeper look of Jesus saw the frenzy and anxiety. But he did not respond with a sense of judgment or superiority. That’s what you get for not obeying the covenant. I will bestow pity on you and push you deeper into your dependence.
Your problems are the fault of religious and political systems and so we need a better system. His response came from the depths of who he was and moved him into an identification and solidarity with living people. At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with compassion. This was not the way things should be, the way the rule of the Kingdom (New Covenant) requires. The imperative of God’s rule and presence must be embodied through the labor of those committed to realizing the Kingdom in their lives. Send out laborers for his harvest. The harvest is these persons ripe for entrance into the Kingdom (now, near), ready to be lifted up in hopeful expectation for the intervention of God.
The miracles of healing, exorcism, cleansing and raising of the dead are signs of God’s presence and nearness working through his laborers.
Without cost you have received. Without cost you are to give. Our reconciliation with God through the death of his Son is the beginning of our life in Him. How much more, once reconciled, will we be saved by his life. Our reconciliation is not a forensic declaration, a peace agreement, or a pact of nonintervention. It cuts to the heart of our helplessness, our sinfulness, our enmity towards God. It exposed them, although we barely have the courage to admit and confess them. Christ’s identification with us, his life of compassion to the point of suffering and death, is an active relationship. We are called to be reconciled with our reconciler, to identify with him, to be saved by his life in us.
And that life is moving out from ourselves in compassion. We are called to embody that healing, resurrecting life and love in being moved by the needs of those who live in despair, abandonment, and anxiety. We are messengers of the one great work of reconciliation which restores human dignity and freedom. Without cost you have received. We bring his healing, not our own. We should be surprised not to see miracles. The Kingdom is near. Its mystery looks for cracks in our skepticism to seep and flow into our lives. The situation is not hopeless. Hope is the knowledge of the love that God has for us.