Sixth Sunday after Pentecost: mediation from Divine Intimacy
13 July 2022
by Fr Gabriel of St Mary Magdalen OCD
O Jesus, my Lord and Father, have pity on my poor soul and sustain it by Your grace.
One thought emerges from today’s liturgy in a special way and dominates all: God is a merciful Father who takes pity on us and nourishes our souls. Our souls are always famished, we are always in need of nourishment to sustain our supernatural life.
God alone can give us the proper nourishment, as the Church tells us in the beautiful prayer of the day: “O God of all power and might, the giver of all good things; implant in our hearts a deep love of Your name; increase in us true religion and sincere virtue; nourish us with all goodness and … keep us in Your loving care” (Collect). The heavenly Father graciously hears our plea and answers by directing us to His divine, only-begotten Son whom He sent into the world that we might have life in Him. In the Epistle (Rom 6: 3–11), St Paul reminds us that as “we are baptised in Christ Jesus … in His death … so we also may walk in newness of life,” that in Him we may “live unto God”. It is in Jesus and in His Redemption that we find everything we need for the nourishment and life of our souls; it is in Him that we shall find the grace, love, faith and encouragement to virtue which we have petitioned in the Collect. It is a great joy for us to hear again that we are reborn in Christ to “newness of life”; it is a great comfort for our weakness. One point, however, remains obscure. How does it happen that we are always falling? Why are we always so miserable? A more attentive reading of the Epistle will reveal the reason: because we are not yet wholly “dead” with Christ, because the “old man” in us has not yet been “crucified” to the point of our no longer being “slaves of sin”. In a word, if we wish to live fully the life that Christ acquired for us by His death, we must first die with Him. As this does not mean material death of the body but spiritual death to our faults and passions, this death must be continually renewed: Quotidie morior — “I die daily” (I Cor 15:31). The weakness of our spiritual life is caused by the insufficiency of this death to self.
In the Gospel (Mk 8:1-9) we hear the words of Jesus, so full of kindness: “I have compassion on the multitude.”
Jesus has compassion on us, our weakness, our cowardice, our unstable wills. He sees that our souls are weary, hungry, in need of help, and as He spoke to the crowds who gathered to hear Him, so He repeats to us: “I have compassion!” Jesus pities first of all our spiritual needs. Although His Passion and death have abundantly provided for them, He still continues to take care of us every day in the most direct and personal way — by offering Himself as food for our souls. The Gospel speaks to us about the second multiplication of the loaves. However, we are more fortunate than the people of Palestine; Jesus has reserved for us a bread infinitely more nourishing and precious: the Eucharist.
Fascinated by the words of Jesus, the crowd had followed Him, forgetting even their necessities; three days they remained with Him and had nothing to eat. What a lesson for us who are often much more solicitous for our material food than for our spiritual nourishment! And Jesus, after having provided abundantly for the needs of their souls, thought also of their bodily needs. His disciples, however, were astonished: “From whence can anyone fill them with bread here in the wilderness?” They had already assisted at the first multiplication of the loaves, but here they seemed to have no remembrance of it and remained distrustful. How many times have we too seen miracles of grace and wonders of divine providence! And yet, when we are placed in new, bewildering, or difficult circumstances, how often we remain hesitant; it seems as if we doubted God’s almighty power. Let us think, for example, of our spiritual life: there are still things to be overcome or surmounted … we have tried so many times, and perhaps we no longer have the courage to begin again. Oh! if our faith were only greater, if we would only cast ourselves upon God with more confidence! One good act of total abandonment might be all we need to win the victory! Jesus is looking at us and saying, “I have compassion on the multitude” and His compassion is not sterile, but is vital action, help, and actual grace for our soul: why, then, do we not have more confidence in Him?
“Ah! my Lord, Your help is absolutely necessary for me; without You I can do nothing. In Your mercy, O God, do not allow my soul to be deceived and to give up the work it has begun. Give me light to know that my whole welfare depends on perseverance.
“Make me understand that my faith in You must rise above my misery, and that I must never be alarmed if I feel weak and fearful. I must make allowance for the flesh, remembering what You said, O Jesus, in Your prayer in the garden: ‘The flesh is weak …’ If You said that Your divine and sinless flesh was weak, how can I expect mine to be so strong that it does not feel afraid? O Lord, I do not wish to be preoccupied with my fears nor to be discouraged at my weakness. On the contrary, I wish to trust in Your mercy, and to have no confidence whatever in my own strength, convinced that my weakness comes from depending on myself” (St Teresa of Avila, Int C I, 1 — Con, 3).
“In You, O Lord, have I hoped; let me never be confounded; deliver me in Your justice. Bow down Your ear to me; make haste to deliver me! Be unto me a God, a protector, and a house of refuge to save me. For You are my strength and my refuge; and for Your Name’s sake You will lead me and nourish me. Into Your hands I commend my spirit; You have redeemed me, O Lord, the God of truth. I will be glad and rejoice in Your mercy. For You have regarded my humility, You have saved my soul out of distress. And You have not shut me up in the hands of the enemy: You have set my feet in a spacious place. I have put my trust in You, O Lord, save me in Your mercy. Let me not be confounded, O Lord, for I have called upon You. How great is the multitude of Your sweetness, O Lord, which You have hidden for them that fear You, which You have wrought for them that hope in You. Have courage, and let your heart be strengthened, all you that hope in the Lord” (Ps 30).