There was a great crowd without anything to eat, he called his disciples and said to them, ‘I have compassion for the crowd, because they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. If I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way – and some of them have come from a great distance.’ His disciples replied, ‘How can one feed these people with bread here in the desert?’ He asked them, ‘How many loaves do you have?’ They said, ‘Seven.’ Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground; and he took the seven loaves, and after giving thanks he broke them and gave them to his disciples to distribute; and they distributed them to the crowd. They had also a few small fish; and after blessing them, he ordered that these too should be distributed. They ate and were filled; and they took up the broken pieces left over, seven baskets full. Now there were about four thousand people. And he sent them away. And immediately he got into the boat with his disciples and went to the district of Dalmanutha.
Then he ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
Our world is full of busyness. The pace at which so many people live can best be described as punishing. Ironically, those who work from home are often those who work the longest hours and enjoy very little time for leisure and relaxation. How many times do those who are retired ponder the conundrum of how they ever fitted a normal working life into their busy routines? We rush from place to place, from task to task. As we rush we become anxious and we are likely to neglect those basic needs which will sustain us and help us to flourish. Our world is full of busyness, and we struggle to make room for ourselves … or for God.
Today’s reading tells us the great crowd that had gathered around Jesus, the great crowdwithout anything to eat. The crowd had gathered because it wanted to be near Jesus. The crowd had gathered and followed for three days. The crowd had clung faithfully to Jesus’ presence, even though they had no food. We are then told that Jesus had compassion for the crowd. That compassion was to manifest itself in another one of his spectacular signs … from just seven loaves and a few fish all four thousand of them would be fed. But first Jesus ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground.
As we live out our days according to the demands being made upon us by work, family, friends and all the others communities with which we interact we, too often, fail to sit down on the ground and trust that God is with us, and that he will provide for us. As we rush from pillar to post we fail to make room for Jesus to come alongside and to offer the nourishment and refreshment that will sustain and strengthen us. So many of us live at this pace. Even when we do ‘sit down’ we quickly become restless because we feel guilty that we are not ‘doing something’. It is in the midst of all the busyness and guilt that we need to hear Jesus ordering us to sit down, as he offers us his compassionate consolation and comfort.
Let us pray that we might recognize the need for rest in our busy lives. Let us pray that we might use those moments of rest to listen for Jesus’ still small voice of calm. Let us pray that as Jesus speaks the words of peace to us, we might become messengers of that peace to others.
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