Matthew 14:13-21
His Heart Was Moved with Pity by Rev. Jack Peterson
Reprinted with permission of "The Arlington Catholic Herald"

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Matthew wrote to show that Christ was the
Messiah and fulfilled the Jewish prophecies.

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.  The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.  When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.  When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves."  (Jesus) said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves."  But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here."  Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds.  They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over - twelve wicker baskets full.  Those who are were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Jesus took on human flesh 2,000 years ago to redeem us from our sins, restore us to a proper relationship with the Father, bear witness to the truth and teach us how to love.  In particular, Jesus taught us that Christian love is sacrificial.  A authentic Christian must be willing to make profound sacrifices out of love for God and neighbor.

Today's short Gospel includes three moments where Christ demonstrates a profoundly sacrificial and compassionate love for His neighbor.  First, we have Jesus' response to the death of John the Baptist.  Upon hearing of his beheading, Jesus withdrew to a deserted place nearby.  His pain was so great that He needed some time alone with His Father in prayer.  He loved John deeply because he was His cousin and the prophet sent by God to prepare the way of the Lord.  Jesus' pain is a sign of His great compassion.

The second moment comes when our Lord's withdrawal was interrupted by the crowds who had pursued him.  Jesus set aside His own need for mourning and addressed the needs of the crowd.  When He saw the people, His heart was moved with pity for them, and He cured their sick.  In the midst of His own great sorrow, Jesus still recognized the needs of those around Him and gave of himself to meet those needs.  In modern times, the Lord always had His radar up.  He never was so self-absorbed that He failed to see the pain and suffering of those around Him.  Furthermore, He constantly sacrificed His own needs for the sake of those whom the Father sent His way.

Finally, at the end of the day in which Jesus had learned of His cousin's death and had been interrupted by a needy crowd, He came upon another large crowd of followers who were tired and hungry.  Once again, our Lord was moved by their needs, and He performed a miracle in order to feed them.  Additionally, Jesus cleverly used this opportunity to teach the crowds indirectly about the greatest gift that He will give to the world, the gift of the Eucharist at the Last Supper.

For 16 years as a priest, I have been in the habit of saying a personal prayer as I lift up the chalice following the consecration.  During that moment of adoration, I always give thanks for the sacrificial giving of the Son of the living God, that we might have eternal life.  The Eucharist makes present our Savior at the moment when He most powerfully demonstrated unconditional, sacrificial love.

Dearest Lord, open the eyes of my heart to see more clearly the wonders of your truth and love.  Transform my life with the grace of the Holy Spirit, which comes to us in so many ways, but especially in the Eucharist.  May I imitate your sacrificial love and give myself ever more completely to your glory and the service of my neighbor.

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