Ministering to a Great Multitude (Luke 6:17-19)

I just want to take this opportunity to stress yet again how important it is to approach the scriptures prayerfully.  We don’t want to just pick them up and read them like a bulletin.  Neither do we want to read them and then quickly see how they speak to someone else.  Please pray and let God speak to you with, and through, His Sacred Word.

Ministering to a Great Multitude

17 And he came down with them and stood on a stretch of level ground. A great crowd of his disciples and a large number of the people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon

18 came to hear him and to be healed of their diseases; and even those who were tormented by unclean spirits were cured.

19 Everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.

At this point in the Gospel we’ve been introduced to essentially two types of people.  Most notably the followers of Jesus on the one hand and the Scribes and Pharisees on the other.  Clearly, for those that follow Jesus there is a desire, a longing in their lives, that is satisfied by the message of the Gospel and by the healings He performs.  By Listening to His preaching and by witnessing His miracles, Christ’s followers are being inwardly transformed so that they can worship God in love and truth.

Additionally, each time Jesus heals the sick we, like the crowds around him, see it as a miracle, and these miracles testify that Jesus has been sent by God.  But for us they are even more than that, we can also see each healing as symbolizing the healing of the wounded human nature; each exorcism as driving evil from the world.

But the Scribes and the Pharisees* are blind to the testimony of the miracles.  They can’t see Jesus as being sent from God and they are deaf to the message of the Gospel.  They, more than anyone, need a deep desire or longing to worship God in love and truth but that won’t happen until they humble themselves.

Now, when we read this pericope we might be tempted to think that the crowds are showing up for the free and effective healthcare, nothing more. We might be tempted to think that after Jesus heals them they will be on their way without another thought of this holy and godly man.  Contrary to that point of view I would like to draw attention to the following: this is a large number of people, a great multitude, and verse 18 is clear that they came to hear him; additionally verse 19 says that “everyone in the crowd sought to touch him because power came forth from him and healed them all.”  But we can’t imagine that everyone in this great crowed was afflicted and looking for medical treatment.  Nor do I think that the term “everyone” is hyperbole or just an expression.  I do believe that the power that came forth from him healed them all because, after all, our human nature is wounded and in need of healing.

(“They came to hear him” – Note, as we read the next five pericopes we get to hear what Jesus preached to this great multitude of people.)

Now, I would suggest reading this scripture one more time.  First try to picture yourself as a member of the crowd, longing for inward transformation so that you can worship God in love and truth. Then this time when you read the passage, try to see it prefiguring the Mass.  It begins with a procession and an assembly of the people.  When Jesus preaches to the crowd we can picture the Liturgy of the Word.  Finally, in the action of everyone seeking to touch Jesus and receive His healing power we can reflect on how the congregation receives Holy Communion, the Eucharist.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches that the Eucharist is “the source and summit of the Christian life” (see CCC 1324).  Within the sacramental graces of the Eucharist we have an intimate communion with our Lord and with His saving and healing power.

Our prayerful response to this reading can be to have a renewed sense of the Mass.  One where we encounter Jesus in the people gathered in his name; where we encounter Jesus in His word; and where we encounter Jesus in the Eucharist.  Additionally, we can pray for a deeper sense of humility to be grateful for what God shares with us in both mystery and in grace through the Mass.

(* Recall that when we were first introduced to the Scribes and Pharisees we noted that they are not all bad.  Some of them accept what Jesus preaches and teaches.  However, most of them oppose Jesus and it is these adversaries that we typically encounter when the scriptures say “the Scribes and Pharisees.”)


Scripture texts in this work are taken from the New American Bible, revised edition© 2010, 1991, 1986, 1970 Confraternity of Christian Doctrine, Washington, D.C. and are used by permission of the copyright owner. All Rights Reserved. No part of the New American Bible may be reproduced in any form without permission in writing from the copyright owner.

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