The apostles gathered around Jesus, and told him all that they had done and taught. He said to them, “Come away to a deserted place all by yourselves and rest a while.” For many were coming and going, and they had no leisure even to eat. And they went away in the boat to a deserted place by themselves. Now many saw them going and recognized them, and they hurried there on foot from all the towns and arrived ahead of them. As he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things.
Today’s gospel is the continuation of that of last Sunday, where we heard Jesus sent out his apostles in pair to preach the good news to villages and towns in Galilee. We do not hear much about what the apostles did in their mission in today’s gospel. St. Mark simply said that they told Jesus all that they had done and taught. This brief mentioning of what they did indicates that the focus of today’s gospel is not on what the apostles achieved but on Jesus.
After having heard the apostles’ experiences, Jesus suggested that they should go to a quiet place away from the crowd to rest a while. With the apostles, Jesus went by boat to a lonely part of the shore of Galilee. However, his intention of taking a brief rest after their mission was dashed because the crowd noticed where they were heading to. They ran on foot to get there before the boat. He took pity on them and forgot his own fatigue. The completely forgetting of his own needs in the face of the need of the great crowd showed how compassionate was Jesus and his desire to become their shepherd since they did not have one.
In these few verses, we can sense the strong compassion of Jesus and his understanding for us mortals. Originally he planned to give a rest to his apostles after their hard work because he understood how tired they were after listening to their reports. He listened to their reports not with his ears only but with his heart at the same time. That was why he could feel what they felt whilst listening to them. Nowadays, how do we listen to others? Do we listen attentively? Do we listen to others with our body, mind and spirit? If we cannot listen to others as Jesus did, how can we say we will do God’s will?
It was a good choice to take a rest after hard work. But when seeing the crowd arrived on the shore before him and his apostles, Jesus decided to change his original plan, although he could have sent them away.
Seeing these simple people of Galilee so anxious to hear about God and his mercy, he let them stay and began to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God. We learn from the gospel that what moved Jesus was because they were like sheep without a shepherd. Why is this image? It was because at Jesus’ time, most learned rabbis were in Jerusalem, thus leaving people outside Jerusalem with less educated rabbis. In other words, people in the countryside were more or less forgotten and ignored by the then religious authority. Nevertheless, the people in the countryside was not forgotten or ignored by Jesus. And he became their shepherd, who taught them the good news and many things.
This compassionate Christ has had pity on us too, and has brought us to his fold. He knows ll out infirmities and all our human weaknesses, and he is ready to have pity on us and pardon us. This should give us great confidence and great encouragement because Christ has not changed. He is the same yesterday, today and forever. Amen.