“Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them” (Mt 15:29-30).
There is a key yet subtle point before Jesus began to heal that might be missed. Before great crowds came to him, Jesus “went up on the mountain, and sat down there.” This is no insignificant sentence. The posture of sitting on the mountain would have been recognized right away by the people of Jesus’ time. This was the posture of the teacher and sitting on the mountain a reference to Moses. Prior to the healing in this setting, as he did throughout the Gospels, Jesus most likely taught about the reign of God. In fact time and again, Jesus’ “works of healing took place in this context of his preaching of the kingdom of God” (Lohfink 2014, 58).
A great multitude of people came to Jesus to hear his message and also with a full range of needs. Jesus made himself available, restored, and healed those who were brought to him. He encountered them as they were in their present condition of need. There is no record in this Gospel account that Jesus asked for any identification, that he discussed their belief system before healing them, nor did he ask if they were Jewish or Gentile, and nowhere in this account did Jesus deny anyone who came to him. The response of those to being healed and restored was that “they glorified the God of Israel“. This is because, “where God is master, there is salvation and healing” (Lohfink 2014, 62).
These recorded accounts of mass healings, are but a foretaste of the heavenly realm of eternal communion with the Father. Jesus is the kingdom of heaven at hand, for as St Irenaeus wrote, “Jesus opened up heaven for us in the humanity he assumed.” Jesus though was not done. The whole process took some time, which is probably an understatement, and as people were getting ready to leave, Jesus showed compassion yet again. He sought the assistance of the disciples because he did not want to send the people away hungry.
The disciples of course are taken aback because of the reality of the undertaking Jesus proposed. Jesus asked what they had with them and they shared just some bread and fish. Jesus took “the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves,and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full” (Mt 15:36-37).
This Advent let us surrender our will to God. May we pray with and meditate on the Gospels such that they become relevant in our lives, so we can serve God as Jesus did. Not stopping to ask for identification, religion, race, gender, creed, or political affiliation, but to see each person before us as a human being with dignity and worth.
Let us also not be dismayed with how little we might have, but let us give what we do have to Jesus in solidarity for his purpose, as did the disciples with the seven loaves and fish, so to experience with those we serve, the abundance, love, and grace of our loving God and Father.
Photo by David Bartus from Pexels
Lohfink, Gerhard. No Irrelevant Jesus: On Jesus and the Church Today. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 2014.