The Troubled Crowds: Matthew 9:36

“At the sight of the crowds, Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them because they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is abundant but the laborers are few; so ask the master of the harvest to send out laborers for his harvest.” (Matthew 9, 34-38)

How should laborers in the harvest today approach the troubled crowds?

In his 1977 novel “Lancelot” Walker Percy tells the story of Lancelot, a man confined to a prison hospital after setting fire to his beautiful ancestral home in Louisiana and murdering his wife and her lover. The man’s fed up with today’s world and turned against it, but he’s still trying to figure out what life’s all about. He’s on to something, one of Percy’s phrases.

An old priest visits him frequently in the prison hospital– his only visitor, it seems– and listens to him, but hardly says a word. That’s partially because Lancelot doesn’t think much anymore of the faith the priest represents.

Yet, the priest listens. Lancelot occasionally asks him if he understands. “Perhaps I talk to you because of your silence. Your silence is the only conversation I can listen to,” Lancelot remarks. Only as the book ends does he say to the priest: “Very well, I’ve finished. Is there anything you wish to tell me?”

In Pope Francis’ exhortation, “Gaudete et exultate”, there’s a wonderful exploration of holiness today. At one point, the pope says “Nor can we claim to say where God is not, because God is mysteriously present in the life of every person, in a way that he himself chooses, and we cannot exclude this by our presumed certainties. Even when someone’s life appears completely wrecked, even when we see it devastated by vices or addictions, God is present there. If we let ourselves be guided by the Spirit rather than our own preconceptions, we can and must try to find the Lord in every human life.”

We’re sent as laborers for the harvest, but words may not be the only tools we have to use. Is silence, along with a persevering concern, ways to engage the troubled crowd?

3 thoughts on “The Troubled Crowds: Matthew 9:36

  1. mystagogyfortheanawim

    In 3 years
    Every day
    10,000 people will be turning 65.

    That’s a Transitus of 78 million people across the next 30 years. That’s 78 million people who will suddenly realize they are not going to roll out of bed one morning and be 18 again. That’s 78 million on a collision course with the reality of their mortality. That’s 78 million who are suddenly going to be embraced by the memory of God.
    In this moment, people are losing their homes, retirement funds, health insurance… we do not have enough nursing homes, or hospice care nor care givers. We have models like… Mother Teresa and Jean Vanier. Perhaps it is this! that Vatican II was preparing us for. Formation of people who can bring Jesus to those who can no longer can come to church. The Lay Monasticism of the homebound, those in nursing homes, assisted living facilities where every week is Holy Week.
    Perhaps it is for us to help turn a day to unceasing prayer rather than meals, meds, and therapies — oh yeah and tv.
    Perhaps it is for us to help people to find the prayer of the heart, so that dying and rising in Jesus with each breath… they open their eyes to see His face.
    Perhaps, it is your prayer books that will help in that journey…


  2. Gloria

    I think I’m correct in saying St. Francis of Assisi said “Preach the Gospel. If
    necessary, use words.” The world needs more silence. The world needs
    more good people like those dear nuns you speak of..Rome should get down on its,collective knees and thank God for all the good nuns/sisters who follow in the footsteps of Jesus and minister to God’s people in so many ways. Rome should use its collective voices and praise these good women to the skies; and apologize to them
    A pox on their waste-of-time investigations!!!


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