Shared Suffering

By Ken Asel

A Reading from the Gospel of Matthew 14:13-21

13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


We pick up today where we left off yesterday. Jesus’ grief for his cousin, John the Baptizer, remains strong. How does one overcome the greatest sorrow in one’s life? Think of the most recent hurricane in southern Louisiana. Weeks went by and yet the devestation remained: garbage everywhere, fishing boats overturned in the canals, economic activity still halting. Elsewhere, across the Caribbean, mothers weep as they watch the young men of Haiti sail north in hope of a better life in the United States, even while they know their children may be unwelcome up north and, if they survive the trip, may only be sent back.

Matthew today tells us Jesus withdrew, most likely to pray. Did he pray for his cousin? Was he reflecting once more on the enormity of his calling, the wicked enemies the Holy One confronts?  First a few people, then a crowd gathered, seeking out the Son of God. Did some come to share in the suffering of the Lord as did the disciples of John? Perhaps. Most, though, came to ask the healer for a few favors. Some received healing, a blessing, or a new start on life. Some were hungry. And the Lord not only mended the broken and the lost but fed those who needed nourishment with something to eat. Many were comforted that day. But no one, that we know of, expressed compassion for the Son of God. But Jesus knew he was there to exercise the will of his Father. He healed others in pain and tended to those who could no longer carry on.

Sometimes our prayers can seem like a Christmas list, pulled out of the pocket of a young child with a host of wishes for Santa to fulfill. In Jesus’ example, he responds with patience, an open heart, and prays to his Father. We cannot fill everyone’s needs, and we need Jesus’ healing ourselves. And yet we are called to follow his example. We will share his sufferings as he shares ours.

(The Reverend) J. Kenneth Asel, D.Min. is a retired priest from the Diocese of Wyoming.  Devvie and he have been married for 30 years and reside on the Front Range.

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Today we pray for:

The Diocese of Olympia
The Diocese of Hawaii


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