Complaints or Compassion?

Dedication of the Basilica of St. Mary Major

Numbers 11:4b-15; Matthew 14:13-21

Our readings today give us a contrast of complaints and compassion.

The first reading is filled with complaints. The people of Israel complain about the manna God has given them to eat. Moses complains about his people.  Their complaints are a very human reaction. They’re like a family that has been together on a trip for too long. Tempers are short. Words are sharp. Patience is gone.

Jesus even complained from time to time, especially when he was confronted with a lack of faith.  In today’s gospel passage, he certainly had reasons to complain.  His enemies had killed John the Baptist and were looking for him. He needed some time alone to think and pray. But even when he sought a moment of retreat, people came looking for him. They were suffering in mind, body and spirit and were desperate to be healed and to receive some hope. 

Jesus could have tried to escape. His disciples wanted him to send the crowds away. But Jesus could not do that. Instead, he showed them compassion. First he fed their bodies. Then he fed their souls.

As parents, grandparents, friends, workers and ministers, we sometimes feel like Moses and the people of Israel, exhausted by the trip. When confronted with some of the horrors in our world like the mass shootings this past weekend in El Paso and Dayton, we are tempted to disgust, despair and withdrawal.  It’s easy to complain about our culture of violence and death, racism and xenophobia, the lack of gun regulation and the power of lobbyists, untreated mental illness, and the shortcomings of our public officials.

But we are disciples.  It is especially in times like these that we are called to follow Jesus and be ministers of compassion and healing. We ask the prayerful intercession of his Mother, who is also the patron of our country. -JC