18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Fr. Francis)
The first reading is taken from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah 55:1-3. The prophet, living among the Jewish exiles in Babylon, utters words of consolation for the despairing exiles. Here he tells them that Yahweh is inviting them to a banquet which he freely gives them. Yahweh alone can provide for their real needs; they are foolish to look elsewhere for consolation or help. If they cooperate he will fulfill the promise he had made to David, the promise of a future Messiah.
The second reading is from the Letter of St. Paul to the Romans 8:35, 37-39. St. Paul concludes this chapter with a hymn in praise of God’s love for us: “with God on our side,” he says, “who can be against us?” Then come today’s verses, which are rhetorical questions, showing that there is no power in heaven or on earth that can take away or lessen God’s love for us as manifested in Christ, his Incarnate Son.
The crowds in today’s gospel had nothing to eat, but our Lord knew the had another hunger apart from that of the stomach. They followed Jesus, listening to every word he spoke, and in none of the stories does it say that they were bothered about food for the body. In today’s episode, it is the apostles who expressed this concern, on behalf of the people. In another place it says that Jesus “looked at the crowd, and felt sorry for them, because they had been with him for several days, and had nothing to eat.” Yet the twin hungers in today’s world are for meaning as well as for food.
Jesus sets the apostles a seemingly impossible challenge. When they point out the lack of food he tells them to feed the people themselves. This, of course, cannot be done, and they tell him so. He then taught them, and us, a basic lesson: “Whatever you have is enough. Just let me have it, and I will do the rest.” At Cana, all they had was water, and it was all he needed; He would do the rest. In another version of this story, where one of the apostles says “We only have a few loaves and some fish, but what is that among so many?” The temptation was to put the loaves and fish back in the bag.
There is power in the actions of Jesus as he says a prayer and begins distributing the bread. Before he called Lazarus forth from the tomb, he raised his eyes to heaven, and said “I thank you, Father, that you have heard me.” It was his constant contact with the Father that inspired his actions. At his baptism in the Jordan he had heard the Father’s voice saying “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased.” He lived constantly with the Father’s approval, even when everyone else rejected him. What a lesson this is for all of us! In commissioning his apostles, later on, he would tell them to feed the hungry. Because he came “to do and to teach,” that is why he fed the hungry before sending his disciples to do the same.
It is a scandal that so large a part of today’s world is made up of hungry people. Most of us have more than we need of money, clothes, food, etc. We may not have as much as we want, but we have more than we need. There is a struggle here, and there is a tension from which we cannot escape. “Whatever you do for the least of these, I will take as being done for me.” The decisions to walk in the Christian Way removes many of my options and choices. Christianity is much more than just saying prayers. It is also a call to action. It is a call to do as Jesus would do. I cannot read today’s gospel and remain indifferent or detached.
“It is in giving that we receive.” When we give, we discover that we are not at a loss. It is an extraordinary paradox, but it is literally me. I will never know this until I try it. How do you consider yourself in the whole area of responsibility for the welfare of others? We are all familiar with the Saint Vincent de Paul Society, Concern, Goal, etc., and we may admire what they do. But we must go beyond admiration and become willing to imitate, and follow their example. Christianity is about witnessing, and in the witnessing is the invitation to “go and do likewise.” The opposite to love is not hatred, but indifference. If God is love, and I am indifferent, then I must seriously examine where God is in my life. This is a fundamental and basic question that must be asked, and it must be answered.
Fr. A. Francis HGN