07 August. Monday, Week 18

Saint Cajetan

1st Reading: Numbers 11:4-15

The people rebel, during their Exodus from Egypt

The rabble among the Israelites had a strong craving; and they also wept again, and said, “If only we had meat to eat! We remember the fish we used to eat in Egypt for nothing, the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions, and the garlic; but now our strength is dried up, and there is nothing at all but this manna to look at.” Now the manna was like coriander seed, and its color was like the color of gum resin. The people went around and gathered it, ground it in mills or beat it in mortars, then boiled it in pots and made cakes of it; and the taste of it was like the taste of cakes baked with oil. When the dew fell on the camp in the night, the manna would fall with it.

Moses heard the people weeping throughout their families, all at the entrances of their tents. Then the Lord became very angry, and Moses was displeased. So Moses said to the Lord, “Why have you treated your servant so badly? Why have I not found favor in your sight, that you lay the burden of all this people on me? Did I conceive all this people? Did I give birth to them, that you should say to me, ‘Carry them in your bosom, as a nurse carries a sucking child,’ to the land that you promised on oath to their ancestors? Where am I to get meat to give to all this people? For they come weeping to me and say, ‘Give us meat to eat!’ I am not able to carry all this people alone, for they are too heavy for me. If this is the way you are going to treat me, put me to death at once – if I have found favor in your sight – and do not let me see such misery as this.”

Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21

Out of compassion, Jesus cures the sick and multiplies food in a deserted place

When Jesus heard the news of John the Baptist’s death, 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.

When he went ashore, he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick. 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.” Jesus said to them, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They replied, “We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 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. And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.


Help in times of trouble

The reading describes a blazing row between Moses and some rebels among the people he was sent to lead. We must remember that the refugees he led out of Egypt were “a crowd of mixed ancestry” (Exod 12:38) and we are told about an alien, foreign element among them (Num 11:4). The Hebrew word might well be translated “riffraff.” If such people are to be moulded into a “kingdom of priests, a holy nation” (Exod 19:6), it will only be after long years of purification and patient training. Moses wanted them to take the risk of crossing immediately into the promised land; but they rebelled and threatened to stone him unless he went their way. So his impatience at their rejection of his leadership need not surprise us; and yet he prayed to God to forgive them and continue to show mercy.

Jesus’ disciples were tempted to follow the easier way out of trouble. We read in the first gospel account: As evening drew on, his disciples came to him with the suggestion, “This is a deserted place and it is already late. Dismiss the crowds so that they may go to the villages and buy some food for themselves.”

Whenever we are faced with a difficult challenge, our response should not be dictated only by our command of financial or other resources, but by thoughts of compassion and respect for others. In the core of our heart we will hear God’s genuine word. At such times we too should imitate Peter and cry out, “Lord, save me.”

Responding to our need

Different people react in differently to situations of need or crisis. In the gospel today, the reaction of Jesus is different from that of his disciples to the sight of a large hungry crowd in the wilderness. The disciples wanted him to send the crowd away; Jesus but asked them to make some effort to feed the crowd. “Give them something to eat yourselves,” he said. Even though they protested that they could not find enough food to feed such a hungry crowd, Jesus persisted and got them to bring the little food they could find to him. Then with that little, with those few resources, the Lord fed the crowd with the help of his disciples.

This gospel suggests that God will always encourage us to take on some service of others, even when we may feel that our resources are inadequate. If we are generous with those few resources, the Lord will then work with them and through them in ways that will surprise us. The Lord can work wonders through the very ordinary and sometimes unpromising looking resources and gifts that we possess. We have to do our bit, like the disciples in the gospel, but the Lord always does much more. Yet, if we are not willing to do the little we can with what we have, the Lord’s own capacity for ministry to others is curtailed. The Lord needs our resources, small and inadequate at they may seem to continue his good work among us and in the world. {MH}

Saint Sixtus, pope, and companions

Pope Sixtus II (first half of the 3rd century) was bishop of Rome from 257 to his death in 258. In the persecution under Valerian in 258, many Christians were put to death and Sixtus was one of the first victims. He was martyred along with several of his deacons, the most famous of them being Lawrence of Rome.

Saint Cajetan, priest

Cajetan (Gaetano) (1480-1547), was an north Italian priest and a reformer of the clergy, devoted to serving the poor. After studying law in Padua, he worked for some years as a diplomat for Pope Julius II. then feeling the call to priesthood he was ordained in 1516. He founded in Vicenza a hospital for incurables (1522) and later founded the Theatines to combine the spirit of monasticism with the exercises of the active ministry.

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