I once again apologize for the delay in posting this. I seem to find my days very busy doing some much needed maintenance around my home this summer. The weather this last week proved good for tearing off decking on a balcony to get it ready for replacement. I continue to promise to try to be timely….firm purpose of amendment I think the good sisters called it….Reyanna
•Jeremiah 23:1-6 • Ephesians 2:13-18 • Mark 6:30-34•
Weekly Scripture Readings:16th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Several weeks ago I felt emotionally and spiritually troubled. Our last four bishops spoke of our need as a diocesan church to do some pastoral planning. Recent clergy appointments tell me we still lack a pastoral plan for our future. I felt not only disappointed by that but then wonder if we will become increasingly irrelevant. Then about that time I saw a few minutes of a TV program that supposedly was a comedy show before a live audience. It was gross and disgusting. The host presented several film clips of individuals engaged in excessive drinking who then vomited right in the face of their companions. The audience exploded with laughter. Why does anyone
find it funny when others behave in a manner that is degrading and crude? That re-ignited my apprehension that our Catholic household of faith and even the gospel seem increasingly irrelevant. That led me to question once again the value of my life and my ministry as an ordained Catholic priest. I was troubled enough that I shared all of this with my spiritual director.
Our text from Mark’s gospel today follows from that of last Sunday. After his hometown peers in Nazareth rejected Jesus he invited those closest to him, those in his inner circle, into his ministry. He taught them. They listened. He healed people. They watched. He told parables. They pondered. And one day he sent them out to teach, heal, and to minister as he did.
Today we hear of their return “reporting all they had done and taught.” The text implies they felt successful, for according to Mark, so many people were “coming and going that they did not even have a chance to eat.”
So “Jesus took them away by themselves in a boat to a solitary place.” Why did he do that?
“Narcissism” is a trap for anyone willing to engage in public service. Perhaps at that moment his companions were a bit narcissistic and did not understand their ministry as something God does through them. Perhaps it was his intention or hope or expectation that in sharing their experience with him and “resting for awhile,” they would move beyond their ego and narcissism.
While preparing this homily I heard this gospel text speak directly to me. I suddenly realized all my emotional and spiritual turmoil of several weeks ago is basically narcissistic. My ego was at the root of my self-doubt and questioning.
The lesson I take from this text for myself is this. When I feel frustration because of the institutional church, or feel our Catholic household of faith or the gospel or even my own life seems irrelevant, I am allowing my ego to control me.
Most of the time I live out of the conviction and awareness that the importance of my life as an ordained Catholic priest and the importance of all I do is about the intangible mystery of God working and speaking through me. When I forget this, my ego assumes control of my spirit.
Frustration is a red flag reminding me it is time to move beyond my ego and free myself of my narcissism. Once I realize this I am immediately able to see beyond my frustrations. I got back in touch with my deep conviction that how I live, what I speak, and what I do make a difference, at least for some folks.It certainly makes a difference for me. It all is about allowing God to work in us and through us. “My task is to dance my dance as well as I can.” How you or anyone else dances is your or their responsibility. How you allow God to shape the sort of person you are becoming and how you or others are becoming more or less human is not my concern.
That is exactly what Mark tells us about Jesus in the remainder of the text. “The crowd ran ahead and got to that solitary place before them. When Jesus got there and saw the large crowd” and their needs, he set aside his own agenda and responded to them. He did not allow his ego to control his feelings or his behavior. “His heart was moved with pity/ compassion for them” and he responded to them. In his “gut reaction” to that crowd we see what being fully human is really all about. Set your ego aside and love people. That is the good news Mark set before us today