Jesus' heart was moved
 with pity for them

Readings: Is. 55.1-3; Ps. 145; Rom. 835-39; Mt. 14.13-21.

Let's ponder Jesus' heart.

Looking at the Sacred Heart statue, what do you observe about Jesus' heart? Speaking on behalf of many people in the congregation, I observe the following. Jesus' heart is open to public view, it is not hidden. What you see is what you get; Jesus presents a genuine uncomplicated love. Jesus' heart is for others. He is giving, caring, reaching out to others, offering himself to others, wanting to be with and for others. The heart is deep red, which I understand to mean that He is fully alive, passionate, bursting with life and love. Many more comments could be made. As you leave the church today, I'd be happy to hear your observations about Jesus' heart.

The gospel story continues: Jesus cured their sick. And noting that the crowd was hungry, Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes in order to feed them. Jesus' depth of love stirred him to action. He saw a real need, and responded to it.

What I find most striking, however, is the larger context for observing Jesus' heart. That context is that Jesus had just learned of the death of John the Baptist. Jesus had just lost his cousin, this colleague in ministry who had been preparing the way for Jesus, this friend about whom Jesus said, "no man born of woman is greater than John the Baptist." Jesus loved, respected and admired John. Strikingly, the gospel says of Jesus, "He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself." No doubt, Jesus was hurting; his sensitive heart must have been breaking. He wanted to grieve. He needed to mourn. Can you picture Jesus in a boat in the middle of a lake. What would he have been doing? I imagine Jesus weeping, reminiscing, praying for the soul of his best friend, sadness at the evil operative in the world and looking forward to heaven where the two would meet again.

Yet, despite this moment of great personal sorrow, Jesus sees the crowd. He returns to shore. He disembarks. The gospel says, "he was moved to pity for the crowd." And right away, he places their immediate needs ahead of his own. His own needs are put aside for the moment. He does what he had come to do: he heals and he feeds the vast crowd.

Dear friends, I suspect that almost everybody here most of the time, acts as Jesus acted. Don't we all temporarily place the immediate needs of other people ahead of our own personal needs?. In doing that, we are acting like Jesus; we are doing what Jesus did. Parents spend 20-30-40 years of their lives, placing the needs of their children ahead of the parents' needs. Grandparents, maybe with less intensity and greater joy, act similarly for their grandchildren! Husbands and wives, perhaps have daily occasions of being sensitive to and serving the needs of their spouse. Best friends, co-workers, do these things daily. I'd like to name a few other positions: secretaries and receptionists who are the front-line people in many offices. School teachers and medical personnel forget about themselves while they help the people in front of them. Firemen and police officers risk their lives in order to serve others daily. Checkout cashiers and bank tellers interact as pleasantly as possible even though they have families and friends who might be suffering. Administrators who must listen to everybody, integrate individual needs into the big picture, and make a prudent decision. School bus drivers, truck drivers, nuns and priests. All of us good Christians try to place our personal needs on the side temporarily, while we take care of other people's immediate needs.

Ponder how good you are. Ponder how Christ-like you are, when you sacrifice your personal needs in order to be self-sacrificing for others. Yes, we all sin, but grace has conquered sin.

The application of the observation is this: in order for us to continue to live like Jesus, it is imperative for us to remain close to Jesus. Thank you for being here every Sunday to hear Jesus' words, and to receive his divine life in the sacrament of the Eucharist. Stay close to Jesus, so that you may continue to do the good that you do. Thank you. But remember also to take care of yourself too. Each person needs quiet time, private time. Enjoy that, but then return to the community in order to see well the needs of others and respond to them as best you can. Simply, continue to try your best to live as Jesus lived, to love as Jesus loved.

Read other homilies by Father O'Malley