Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him (Jn 6 3-5).
People were approaching Jesus because of the signs they saw him perform. Jesus raised his eyes and saw the large crowd coming, but he also saw their need. He could see that they were tired, they were wounded, they were hungry. Jesus would provide for the vast multitude from the meager five barley loaves and one fish that a young boy had with him. The people sought Jesus, he recognized their need, came down from the mountain and met them on their level, and provided for their need.
The same is true today. Though Jesus has ascended from our three dimensional plane of existence, he has not left us orphaned. Just as Jesus went up on the mountain in today’s reading, Jesus ascended to a greater height, a higher plane or pitch of existence in his ascendance, so to better see us and to see our need.
How often do we find ourselves hungry for we know not what; how often may we feel adrift, confused, not quite sure of the direction we ought to take? How often are we hurting or ill, know of someone else who is in pain, suffering, or dealing with a chronic physical or mental situation? How often do we feel alone, misunderstood, anxious, or afraid? If you are feeling any of the above or something else not listed, may we, like the people in today’s Gospel come to Jesus.
How do we do that? How do we come to him? Because of the fact that Jesus has ascended, he has greater accessibility to us now than he did the day he fed the multitude. One way Jesus is present to us is in the sacraments. For just as he received the loaves and fish and multiplied them for those reclining on the grass, in the Mass through the priest he receives the matter, bread and wine, and he offers the prayer to his Father, the form, or words of institution. In each sacrament, there is a particular matter and form, such that Jesus is present. He raises his eyes to see us when we come to participate in the sacraments of the Eucharist, Baptism, Confirmation, Reconciliation, Anointing of the Sick, Matrimony, and Holy Orders.
We can also come to Jesus when we read the scriptures prayerfully and place ourselves in his word through our imagination, meditation, and contemplation; we can come to Jesus in our service and acts of love and generosity offered; any time we open our hearts and mind to Jesus in prayer individually, in a small group, or during our worship as a community of faith, Jesus is in our midst. We can come to Jesus in the wonders of creation, on a mountaintop, at the ocean, sitting in a tree, or watching a sunrise or sunset.
There are so many ways to experience Jesus in our lives. We just need to come to him and as we draw near, he will raise his eyes and see us approaching. We can rest assured that he will welcome us, be present, and accompany us in our need. One of the simplest of encounters that best exemplifies how we can experience Jesus was told by St. John Vianney (1786-1859), also known as the Curé de Ars, French for the Pastor of Ars, a small village in France.
St. John would come into the church sanctuary early each day to prepare for Mass, and each day he witnessed a man sitting in the front pew gazing at the tabernacle. After some days of observing this daily practice, the Curé de Ars approached the man and asked him what he was doing so early in the church each day. The man replied that he was sitting, looking at Jesus, while Jesus was looking at him.
Let us do likewise, approach Jesus today in the way that suits us best, thank him for the gift of his presence in our lives, share with him our needs, and allow him to help us to make our burdens a little lighter. As we go through our day, may we carry Jesus within us and be open for opportunities to share him with others.
Photo: Side altar, St Ignatius Church, University of San Francisco, 2019 visit.