Smile Please - A Reflection on Luke 9:11b-17 (Sunday) From verse 10
This is one of Jesus’ most popular miracles, which is to be found in all four gospels, but there are so many lessons to be learned from this story. We’ll just reflect on one, because I believe it is important for these times. Luke provides an abbreviated version of the story, so I’ll use some of the other accounts to fill in some of the blanks. Here is the background. John the Baptist has just died, and Jesus is grieving. The apostles have returned from a mission, pretty much exhausted. They all decide to take a break from the ministry and go to a solitary place to recoup.
They take their usual mode of transport—a boat—hoping that this way they could also duck the crowds. However, they don’t succeed in losing the people, or get the rest they wanted, because when they landed, the crowds were already there. What would we have done if we were in their position? Weary and stressed, there is a good chance we might have got testy and snapped at the crowds, saying some rude or nasty.
Jesus, however, welcomes them, and makes them feel wanted. In their versions, both Matthew and Mark make a note of how he had compassion for them, because they were like sheep without a shepherd. And this is what I want to reflect upon. The world is increasingly beginning to feel like a place where there are no shepherds with hearts of compassion anymore.
I remember when I was growing up, I used to love hanging around priests because they were so warm and kind, and grumpy priests were the exception rather than the rule. Today, that seems to be reversed. Yes, there are warm hearted and wonderful priests and I have been blessed to meet some of them, but there are too many frumpy men around who won’t even crack a smile when you go to meet them, and that kinda seems off, doesn’t it?
If you are a priest watching this, please smile. It’s a sign that you are approachable. And please be gracious. I know that life is busy, there is a lot of work to do, and parishioners can be very demanding, but if Jesus could do it, so can you. And if you happen to be an ordinary guy like me, and meets a grumpy priest, try not to get upset. If you get the opportunity remind him that he is “in persona Christi” which means, “in the person of Christ.” In a metaphysical way, the priest actually IS Jesus. I think sometimes they forget, so let’s remind them.
I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge some of the wonderful priests that I have met lately during my year in Mumbai. The priests of IC Church, Borivali, have been wonderful, and when everybody talks about the parish being so vibrant it is because of their willingness to open their doors to people who want to grow God’s kingdom. Equally wonderful have been the priests of St. Teresa’s and St. Francis in Bandra, St. Joseph’s in Mira Road, and St. John’s in Thane. I’d like to make a special mention of Fr. Magi of St. Andrew’s College. He’s wonderful. I’ll explain why another time.
Until then, let’s all smile and be gracious.