Matthew 15:29-37 - The Need for Apostles
At that time: Jesus walked by the Sea of Galilee, went up on the mountain, and sat down there. Great crowds came to him, having with them the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others. They placed them at his feet, and he cured them. The crowds were amazed when they saw the mute speaking, the deformed made whole, the lame walking, and the blind able to see, and they glorified the God of Israel.
Jesus summoned his disciples and said, "My heart is moved with pity for the crowd, for they have been with me now for three days and have nothing to eat. I do not want to send them away hungry, for fear they may collapse on the way." The disciples said to him, "Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?" Jesus said to them, "How many loaves do you have?" "Seven," they replied, "and a few fish." He ordered the crowd to sit down on the ground. Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, gave thanks, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied. They picked up the fragments left over–seven baskets full.
Dive into the scene! Jesus sits on the top of a mountain, the highest point in the area. The crowd converges around him, raising like a water level. There is a clear impulse, something that drives that flood of people, higher and higher up the hill. They are in need of Him. And, true enough, they brought the “the lame, the blind, the deformed, the mute, and many others.” The wave of people washed up the neediest at Jesus feed. “And he cured them.”
There is a deep impulse inside every one of us to put forth our needs and desires - our problems - in front of someone trustworthy. We instinctively know that most of those needs can only be satisfied or mended with the help of others. Deep down we sense that we are not self-sufficient. The more desperate our situation and the more painful our sufferings, the stronger that impulse becomes. Alas, if you have nobody whom you can trust enough to reveal your sorrows, the aforementioned impulse will choke you. Loneliness, despair, and cynicism will kick in then.
This is also why we feel drawn to church in moments of need. While it is more than questionable to limit our religious activities to when we are “down,” it is right to pour out or problems at Jesus’ feet. The gospel is full of moments like that... And “he cured them.”
Lame, blind, deformed, mute: Matthew gives a list of sufferings which stand for very particular and personal needs. They required a type of healing which human skills could not provide. In each person’s heart there are needs which only God can satisfy. The disciples stood by, watched, and observed how Jesus mended people’s life with the power of His divine grace. Jesus did not teach them to heal in His place on that day. But, a little later, He addressed another type of need, one far more universal: hunger. Hunger stands for the type of needs which every human being endures. And it stands for a type of needs which Jesus wants His disciples to mend. And thus He did include the human actions of the disciples into the process of feeding the crowd.
On that mountaintop, the workings of Jesus’ grace were displayed tangibly. Humanity is driven to raise their eyes high and make their way to Our Lord; they are in need and they realize that He is the most trustworthy person in front of whom to pour out their hardships. Our Lord loves them and wants to heal them; He wants to take away their hardships and renew their lives. So He touches many of them personally and miraculously heals them. But His divine heart sees not only that what is paining them at the moment; He knows the human heart and spots our perpetual hunger for love and acceptance and strength. He wants to give us all that, but He also wants to teach us to give love to each other. So He hands a loaf of bread to a disciple and encourages him to give it out. Jesus makes him - and the other disciples - apostle of His love, backed by the love which burns in His own Divine Heart and which is the source of grace for the miracle which then happens. The disciples are made able to give out far more bread and love than humanly possible. They are powered by Jesus’ grace. They are Apostles.
An apostle cannot replace Jesus on the mountaintop. But he or she can be the extension of His shower of love for mankind. Each person must be encouraged to pour out her particular needs at Jesus' feet personally; but each person shall also be touched by His love through the mediation of an apostle, whose human love is impregnated by the grace of God’s love too. Jesus loves people. That is why He calls and forms and sends out apostles. So that nobody on this planet lacks persons trustworthy enough to approach them with one’s needs. Above all, with one’s needs for the kind of love and acceptance and strength without which we cannot truly become happy, but which only God can give. Apostles are called to give what only God can give.