Dear brothers and sisters, the generous and self-giving love of our God is evident in the readings we just heard. And we have heard the message of the Gospel often enough to know that we too have a vocation – a call – to love. Today we are reminded that our call to love is not just a vague ideal, but has a very real face. It is a person – Jesus Christ.
There are two ways we can live out our vocation to love, which of course is our response to the love God has shown us. There are some who love to give. They seem to plan and make decisions starting with the basic principal that there is an abundance. For them, it is hard not to be generous in using their goods (their material goods, their time, their gifts). There is another group of people who start with the basic principal that there is a shortage. For them, it is difficult to give because there is a fear that there will not be enough – that if they give, they will lose something that is precious to them.
Let’s consider the familiar Gospel story for today, not through the eyes of Jesus, or of the thousands who were fed, but through the eyes of the disciples. We read that when the crowds heard that Jesus was near, “they followed him on foot from their towns.” Jesus spoke to them all day, and when evening came, we hear these thoughtful words from the disciples – “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
But were these really thoughtful and kind words from the disciples? Or were they beginning to see the crowds of hungry people as unexpected visitors – visitors who have overstayed their welcome? We have all had that kind of experience. Dinner is prepared and guests unexpectedly arrive – a teenager brings home a guest, a relative or neighbor drops by – and we worry there won’t be enough. Or it’s getting late and we are tired, but our guests stay comfortably seated.
On second look, the desire of the disciples to “dismiss” the crowds might not have been thoughtful. Perhaps they were getting a little annoyed with the guests of Jesus who remained comfortably seated. Maybe they were thinking something like, “When are all of these lepers, blind and deaf people and sinners going to leave?!” It’s getting late. We’re tired and hungry, we want to spend time alone with Jesus, and if they don’t leave, there won’t be enough – not enough food – not enough time.
If we try to look deep into the eyes of the disciples, we can recognize fear and attachment. They are afraid to give generously because they are thinking from the perspective of one who has limited resources – a shortage. But Jesus is trying to teach them to love generously – he wants them to view the world in a different way – from the perspective of abundance.
How many people see the world through the eyes of Jesus – as abundance? Let’s face it brothers and sisters of Saint Mark, when we are not fully aware of God’s presence and generous providence in our lives, we see things like the disciples did. We see the human limitations and we find it difficult to lift our eyes to what is spiritual – what is beyond us. But each of us is attracted to generosity – to giving like Jesus did. How do we want to live our lives – the time God has given us on earth? What if today is the day that Jesus teaches us to lift our eyes to more – the way he lifted the eyes of the disciples?
Our vocation to love is demanding. Every gift God gives us is meant to produce abundant fruit in our own souls and in the souls of whomever he wishes to tie to our generous response, within our particular state of life and circumstances.
Dear parents – God has given you the sacrament of matrimony – by it you share in the intimacy of God’s love and through it you become a gift for each other. Fidelity to your vocation as Christian spouses and parents will at times demand a silent and bloodless martyrdom. Be generous! Don’t give into the temptation to soften your call – and teach your children to be generous as well.
Dear young people – You are in the marvelous stage of life when you have to lay the foundation for what is to come. You are asking many questions – what does God want of me? How can I find fulfillment and be happy? I guarantee you won’t find the answer outside of God’s will – away from Christ. Open your hearts to Him. Youth, more than any other, is the age of generosity. Don’t be afraid to listen to the voice of Christ inviting you to live for Him alone. And be courageous and generous enough to leave everything and follow Christ if you hear His voice calling you.
Dear grandparents – Your mission in life is far from over! You possess the rich treasure of long years of experience that you are called to share with your children and grandchildren, your friends and neighbors. Do not abdicate such a great responsibility – be generous in your giving. Your word and testimony can make you the best transmitters of the faith – but only to the degree that you center yourselves on God and others, and not on yourselves.
Dear brothers and sisters of St. Mark, when we learn to view the world from a perspective of abundance rather than shortage we learn to live our vocation to love. Which on do you want to choose?