Chapter Talk – 16th Sunday of the Year – July 18, 2021, cycle-B
The readings for the Mass today center on the ‘shepherd’ theme. Jesus realizes that his disciples need some solitary, silent time and space. As they retreat to a lonely place, they see before them a crowd of people who arrived there just before them. The people are hungry for a word of life…they are seeking to be nurtured interiorly…to have their hearts and minds expanded in the ways of God. So, Jesus teaches them ‘many things’. We may wonder: what did Jesus teach them? And then, what would the people be desiring to hear? If we were in the crowd, what would each of us be seeking or longing for?
There exists in each human person: a deep desire and longing…This deep desire or longing pulsates in the depths; it is archetypal, meaning it is divinely stamped upon the human soul. It is what sets us on the spiritual journey. Silence helps us to hear this deep desire, a desire which seeks life, love, meaning to what causes suffering, transformation so that our lives are more available to the Divine promptings. Clearly Jesus’ presence awakens this deeper longing and desire within the people and within us.
Most commentators look at this gospel from the stance of Jesus, the true shepherd, who sees the longing and the cry of the people. No matter what, Jesus will not abandon anyone who is seeking and in need. In this gospel the longing of the people is palatable. I like to suggest that we view this gospel narrative as an ‘encounter’, an encounter between Jesus and the people. “All authentic life is encounter”, wrote Martin Buber. In the encounter our heart meets the heart of Christ and vice versa, Christ’s heart meets ours. Longing meets longing, the cry of the soul meets the Divine cry. ‘Abyss calls upon abyss’ we hear in Psalm 41…or in another translation, ‘deep calls upon deep’. The depths of God cry out to our depths. In the encounter the depths of our longing meets, joins with, the Divine longing. In this encounter life happens. God will never abandon the cry of the soul because it pierces the Divine heart which is always overflowing with Love and Mercy.
Pope Francis in his ‘apostolic exhortation’, The Joy of the Gospel, writes: “Thanks solely to the encounter—or renewed encounter—with God’s love…we are liberated from our narrowness and self-absorption. We become fully human when we become more than human, when we let God bring us beyond ourselves in order to attain the fullest truth of our being” (p.4). We seek and yet we are the ‘sought’. All authentic seeking co-inheres with the Divine seeking and this brings us into the Divine encounter with God’s love.
‘His heart was moved’.…What moves God’s heart if not human longing and desire. This interior encounter with God’s love is what prepares us for bringing this same healing love to others. As Pope Francis wrote: “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others” (p.5). When we receive the Divine love, we are better able to shepherd those we meet who are in need. Perhaps this is the main reason why each of us are on this journey: to be vessels of God’s love, shepherding this love, in whatever ways we are called, in and through our lives.
Sr. Kathy DeVico, Abbess