Monday, July 28, 2014

Love Like Jesus

This week's gospel is a familiar story. The multiplication of 5 loaves and two fish to feed 5000 men plus women and children. It starts with Jesus in mourning. Jesus hears about the death of His cousin. He withdraws to be alone. He has no home so He just goes off in a boat to try and find a place where He can mourn in peace. 

What happens? People find out about this. As soon as He steps off the boat there are vast crowds there. He has to be a little annoyed. Yet the gospel says He had pity on them. He cured their sick. 

We tend to try and set boundaries in ministry. We don't want our whole life to be consumed by it. We need some personal space. Yet Jesus does not enforce boundaries. He does not try and avoid rewarding this behavior. He has pity on them and heals them. It gets to be evening and He has every excuse to send people home and He says No. He wants to do more than cure the sick. He wants to feed everyone. 

The obvious parallel is the priesthood. Priests need to be available for the sacraments of confession or anointing of the sick. Canon law says they need to be able to interrupt almost anything they might be doing to hear a confession. A death in the family is no excuse. Yet that is not enough. A priest must also provide spiritual food for the crowds. He can't send them home to get food. He must feed them.

What about those of us who are not priests? Should we start to remove the boundaries from the ministries we are involved in. Don't just volunteer at a soup kitchen but invite them back to your home? Not all of us. For many of us our primary ministry is with our family. Marriage is our vocation. So this unconditional giving of ourselves needs to apply to our spouse and to our children.

Once you get past your primary ministry then giving can't be unconditional anymore. You can't give yourself to the soup kitchen in a way that will hurt your family. Likewise a priest must put his ministry to the church first. So it is not as simple as never saying No. Sometimes we need to say No precisely because we want to give a full Yes somewhere else.

Still what Jesus shows us is important. He has a personal agenda. He lets go of it and does exactly what He was trying to avoid having to do. He does not just do it out of duty and leave His heart out of it. His heart is moved. He does not do the minimum possible. When people are hungry and likely to leave and find food and lodging He satisfies their hunger with a huge miracle that will mean the crowds will hang around well into the night. 

Do we do that? Do we forego legitimate excuses? Or do we expect our family to just understand that we won't be there for them when we are suffering? It is easy to say I deserve this time for myself. That is where duty ends and love begins. I don't have to spend this time with you but I will because I want to give myself completely to you. I won't demand any recognition or any payback. I will just give because that is what love does.    

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