Jesus Our Teacher, Bernadette Reilly, St. Columbkille’s Primary School, Rutherglen, Scotland.
When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,
his heart was moved with pity for them,
for they were like sheep without a shepherd;
and he began to teach them many things. Mark 6:34
Today’s readings cover a great deal of territory. The first reading from Jeremiah sets the scene and talks of those who claim to be leaders and teachers of God’s flock yet succeed in scattering (scandalizing? demoralizing?) everyone for whatever reason, scripture simply stating “evil deeds”. It would not be hard today to put a name on such evil deeds and the devastation that has resulted. So the impression given here is that something needs to be done to deal with such a bad situation. God promises that indeed new shepherds will be sent to try and gather together a “remnant” of whoever is left who will trust those who claim to be sent by God. They will be led by a righteous descendent of David who will do what is right and just. In our eyes, of course, that is a prophetic statement referring to Jesus.
Today’s second reading talks about the impact of Jesus as teacher. The potential “flock” of his followers now includes all of humanity, not simply the Hebrew people. He smashed the huge wall between the two peoples which had persisted over the centuries; now all were called to the one faith. Salvation for all!
And then the gospel. Teaching was not the top item of the agenda. Having a good rest was! To us today it looks like the small group of proto-Christians setting off for a retreat, a time of contemplative prayer and communion with God. But it was not to be. Their words and actions had created, as it were, a feeding frenzy for the soul. The people could not get enough of what Jesus and his followers were saying. It was truly inspirational; it set their hearts on fire. And Jesus, ever loving, forgiving, adaptable, stood up and taught them. He gave them what they wanted most of all, to be told that they were, each individual, loved by God, forgiven by God, called by God to happiness and inclusion in the heavenly family. It sounds just as unbelievably good today; God loves me? The answer is yes; each one of us is the apple of God’s eye. Each one of us is God’s child. In God’s eyes, we can do no wrong, so strong is the love God bestows on us. That means when we do fail, all it takes is a “sorry” and a determination to try to live up to that spectacular expectation laid on us, and so to be taken into God’s arms once more, those arms we had rejected by sinful action. So we can return to God any time, every time. Just as a loving parent will always love the child despite disappointing behavior, so we are even more loved by God. We remain in that embrace by demonstrating our love of God in return, by loving each other, as we are all brothers and sisters to each other.
In Memoriam, The Last Supper, Andrew White, Church of the Immaculate Conception, Farm Street, Mayfair, London, England.
Jesus demonstrated the ultimate proof of God’s love for us by giving himself, body and blood, to us at the Last Supper and at every re-enactment of it ever since.