Jesus took pity on the People
In this today’s Gospel, we read the report of the return of the Twelve, who were sent by Jesus to preach repentance, heal the sick, and drive out demons. When the Twelve return to Jesus, he invites them to come away from the crowds and rest. But the crowds will not give them peace. As the Twelve have shared in Jesus’ ministry, they now appear to share in his popularity. The crowds continue to approach them, and Mark reports that the disciples don’t even have time to eat. In an effort to get away, Jesus and his disciples board a boat in hopes of finding a deserted place. But the crowds notice this and arrive ahead of them. The crowds are so persistent that Jesus and his disciples cannot find a place to be alone. Mark’s Gospel tells us that Jesus is moved with pity and begins to teach the crowds. We often come across in the Gospels Jesus taking pity on the needy and then either doing something about it or teaching us about our duties of pity. He pitied sinners and forgave them; he pitied the sick and healed them; he pitied the widow and raised her son to life; he had pity for outcasts and made them welcome at his table; and he preached that we, his disciples, should take pity on the hungry, the poor, and those who are suffering. But the pity he shows today does not fit this pattern. He takes pity on the whole people — rich and poor, healthy and sick — and the form that his pity takes is teaching.
We who are Jesus’ disciples today have also been sent to share the Gospel with others. Perhaps our commitment to following Jesus as his disciple leaves us feeling tired and overwhelmed. In today’s Gospel, we hear Jesus affirm the importance of times of rest and renewal. Jesus wanted his disciples to come away and spend time alone with him. This is what we seek and find in our life of prayer and in our celebration of the Eucharist.