Monday, July 20, 2015

Deserted Places and Jesus

After reading the Gospel, the Deacon, or the Priest, acclaims, "The Gospel of the Lord." All reply, "Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ." Then he kisses the book, saying quietly, "Through the words of the Gospel may our sins be wiped away." Now, of course, he is referring to the entire Gospel; but, since the portion read to us is most significant for the day, I attempt to focus on how, through it, "may our sins be wiped away. That brings me to the Gospel reading for the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time, Sunday, from St. Mark 6:30-34. On the face of it, everything seems historical and of no real effect to us today--except the historicity of it. However, let's look a little closer at it.

"The apostles gathered together with Jesus and reported all they had done and taught." Jesus aand the Twelve reflect the Catholic Church of which Jesus is the Head. They must report to Jesus because He is the Head. Jesus does not commend them, nor rebuke them. Why. Think of the your body. The parts of the body obey the brain, the head. The brain does not commend them nor rebuke them for they are obedient. The Catholic Church is the same: The Catholic Church is obedient to its Head, Jesus Christ. Now, someone will surely bring up Judas. but that is getting into something else. Here, Judas was obedient, as the others were.

Jesus says, "Come away by yourselves to a deserted place and rest a while." This is because "people were coming and going in great numbers, and they had no opportunity even to eat. Rest and eating (communion) go together. Nevertheless, Jesus knew there would be a great crowd awaiting. Therefore, what was this all about? They were not going to get their rest--or were they?

"So they went off in the boat by themselves to a deserted place." They went off in a boat by themselves, getting away from the crowd. Jesus is in the boat with them; they are "resting" with Jesus, the Word. They also had bread in the boat, for Jesus is the "bread of Life."

They got into the boat. As you probably know, to me the boat signifies the Catholic Church, the ark. I think it is a beautiful picture, how we rest and commune in the Catholic Church with God.

This morning, my thoughts were expanded more up the "ark" picture. We are taught that the ark also points to the Virgin Mary, our Mother, the Mother of God, because the Son of God was in her womb. Inside of the ark of the Covenant was three things: the two tablets of the Law, a jar of manna, and Aaron's rod. I knew all three items pointed to Jesus. To me, the first two items were self-evident: The Law reflected the nature and character of God--Jesus--and the manna reflected Jesus being the Bread of Life, the true bread from heaven. That left Aaron's rod, which had budded. At first, I was thinking that Aaron's rod reflected the Cross, the rod being used for correction, for guidance. Then the thought occurred: What if Aaron's rod was a picture of the crown of thorns placed upon Jesus' head? The rod had budded. I believe I read somewhere that every time we prayed a Hail, Mary one of the thorns would turn into a rose. The heart of man lies primarily in the mind. God promised that He would take our hearts of stone and replace them with a heart of flesh, that He would put His Law into our hearts--our minds.

But what of the Cross? You cannot have the Gospel without the Cross. The boat--the Catholic Church, the ark. I thought, "That does not make sense." Or does it? The Catholic Church teaches that Jesus presides over every Mass--from the Cross. The altar is a picture of the Cross, the table upon which we commune.

But what of our Blessed Mother, if the ark portrays her? The Virgin Mary was without sin, full of grace. What do we have, that we do not receive? She was without sin, full of grace because of the Cross. The Church teaches that she was in full cooperation with the plan of God when it came to Jesus' Passion and Death. The Virgin was human, and humanity--in order to be redeemed--needed the Cross. She needed the Cross. She is the Lady of Seven Sorrows. How heart-broken she had to have been. She is portrayed as standing next to the Cross. She is not looking up; she is looking down upon another Mary, who is kneeling at the Cross. She is looking down with compassion, with pity, upon the Church, of which she, the Virgin Mary, is part of. She is imparting the grace of her Son upon the Church. The Cross was a crude "resting place" for our Lord, who rested in death upon the Cross. Tradition also has Jesus, after being removed from the Cross, being placed into the Virgin's arms, "resting" in her arms, before "resting" in the tomb. Christ rested upon the Cross, and we "rest" with Him on the Cross because in Him we died.

Now, the boat was also a "deserted place." The waters are a picture of fallen humanity doing what is right in their own eyes--chaos. The boat rode above the waters, "resting" above the waters as the Cross "rested" above the earth. In this "deserted place," the apostes rested and communed with Jesus.

"People saw them leaving and many came to know about it. They hastened there on foot from all the towns and arrived at the place before them." I call these people the irresponsibly-responsible people. In times of this passage, people did not get paid weekly or bi-weekly, did not have refrigerators, etc. It is my understanding that they went out daily to obtain their daily food. Hence, these people--the men--were irresponsible in that they were not providing for their families--"if a man doesn't work, he shouldn't eat"--nevertheless, they were responsible in that they were yearning to "see" Jesus. Which group would I have been in? those who went to work, or who went to see Jesus? If I worked to provide for my family, I would be obeying Jesus; if I went to hear Jesus, I would be obeying Jesus. In both instances I would be trying to obey God's word. God would use those that went to "fill me in." It is a Martha-and-Mary thing.

The boat must have been in sight at all times and was not going far because "they hastened there on foot from all towns and arrived at the place before them." Hence, Jesus was not attempting to get away from them; He just desired that the apostles rest a little and eat. Then He was going to have the Church shepherd the sheep, He being the chief Shepherd. The people hastened to get away from their towns, to go to a deserted place where there would be few distractions. They hastened to get away in order that they may have time with Jesus and His Church, that they may rest.

"When He disembarked and saw the vast crowd, His heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and He began to teach them many things." Jesus and His Catholic Church shepherds by teaching and feeding. We are not told what He taught because the important thing is: He shepherds by teaching and feeding, while we rest in Him.
--Tommy Turner