“He saw this large crowd and his heart was filled with pity for them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.”

Mark 6:30

Monday, 19 July 2021

Mark 6:30-34

After the events of the past ten days, many of us are physically and emotionally exhausted. We feel we have been through a traumatic experience, and some of us have. Even if we were far from the violence and the looting in parts of our country and it didn’t touch us personally, we feel drained. Because of the intrusion of modern social media into our lives, we were somehow part of the drama of it all, and maybe we were also anxious for the safety of family and friends who were closer to it than us. We feel shaken out of our normal routine and suddenly very vulnerable and weak. It was scary.

It’s tempting to think that we live in more dangerous and scary times than previous generations. But that is ignorance of history. Every generation has its share of frightening, even terrifying experiences, as any older person will tell you. So also in the time of Jesus, people lived extremely fragile lives. In the land of Palestine, the Roman occupation was brutal. Everyone was vulnerable. There were frequent riots, leading to bloodshed and often mass executions. Daily life was extraordinarily difficult, and sometimes collaboration with the hated invaders was the only way to survive. Human life was not worth much.

Into this frightening scenario comes a man from Nazareth. He is a man steeped in the scriptures and full of the love of God. He touches all his hearers with hope, joy, peace and the vision of a kingdom without violence or anger or brutality. How extraordinary that must have seemed to them! It was no wonder that they flocked to hear him, see him, touch him, and be near him. And when the pressure of the crowds became too much and he tried to get away with his disciples for a bit of rest, they figured out where he was going and got there first. And so he saw them and felt pity for them because they were “like sheep without a shepherd”, and he began to teach them many things. 

In these trying times, it is good to perhaps imagine ourselves as part of that crowd, trying to get close to Jesus. What anxieties are there in our hearts? What would we want him to heal for us? What would we find so attractive about him? How would we be like “sheep without a shepherd”? 

Lord God,

We pray for all those deeply affected by this violence and mayhem, whose lives have been disrupted and overturned, who have lost loved ones, who have lost their livelihoods, who have lived through fear and terror and anger. Heal our hearts and minds, bring us together again, and give us that sense of purpose and community and mutual support, which is the only way we can move forward together.


Tim Smith

Tim Smith is Regional Director for the Jesuit Refugee Service in Southern Africa, which covers Angola, Malawi, South Africa and Zimbabwe. He lives in Cape Town with his wife Shona and son Patrick.

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