Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A 2014
The theme of our readings today is very simply – the Lord provides. Both our physical needs and our spiritual needs can be taken care of if we put our trust in God. If this is so, then why do we still need things? The only answer can be that we haven’t fully placed our trust in our Creator. Let’s face it – it is not an easy thing to do. Even St. Thomas who was so close to Jesus was not able to do it without physical proof. And most of us are not saints yet!
Yet, I am always so very surprised that when I let go and give everything over to God, somehow things get better. But most of us have to be overwhelmed before we end up doing that.
In the Gospel today we see a stunning example of faith and trust in Jesus. We all know that a great crowd of people can turn against someone very quickly, and hunger and thirst are two of the base needs that cause revolution and war. The apostles were worried when the evening was coming and none of this crowd of people had been fed. Yes, Jesus had been very charismatic that day, and had compassion for the crowd and worked all sorts of miracles and healings for them. But hunger can turn a crowd.
The Apostles thought the best idea was to send them away to nearby villages so that they could purchase food. I presume that most of the crowd would not have much money, and purchasing food might not be an option for them.
You can imagine their surprise when Jesus said that their idea wasn’t a good one and that the Apostles better feed them instead. Someone today would probably have looked at Jesus as though he were joking, and say “Yeah…right!”
Bur Jesus was not joking and asked them to gather what food there was – which was really very little. And what did Jesus do? he put his trust in God and prayed to God. he then said the traditional blessing before a meal, and started to distribute the food to the Apostles to give out. The result: 5000 ate supper.
I am reminded of a wedding I performed a few weeks ago. I had left a ciborium at the door and asked people to put a host in if they were going to communion. When the gifts were brought up at the Offertory, the ciborium was empty – they either hadn’t heard or felt embarrassed to get out of their seats. In any case, I put in about twenty hosts just in case. Well, at communion, suddenly rows and rows of people got up to go to communion. I looked at my poor twenty hosts and all these people – and said to myself: “Jesus, you fed the five thousand – help me here!
Every time someone came up, I cut the remaining hosts smaller and smaller and in the end, about 100 people came to communion and I ran out for the last five. The last five got a nice blessing and an apology. Guess I am nowhere as good as Jesus yet!
The Psalmist and the prophet Isaiah both re-iterate the theme of trusting in God to provide for us. Isaiah uses the beautiful metaphor of eating and drinking applied to the Word of God. The Word of God will sustain us even more than wine, milk and bread. So if we are needy, we simply have to come to the waters of Scripture and eat the food that is provided there. The Psalmist cries that “You open your hand to feed, us Lord, and satisfy our needs.” The Lord has compassion on us and he loves us.
One last word about these readings today and that is about the question of “need”. Only the Lord knows what we truly need, and as we have said over and over, God’s ways our not ours. We may think we need certain things, and in our culture, we always seem to be needing something. None of the things that God provides in Scripture are things of excess – they are base needs: hunger, thirst, love. Too often today our ‘needs’ are tied up in things that are excesses or unnecessary to a simple way of life. And that is why perhaps we only think to ask God, and give things over to God when we are very low and needy – because these are the things God is most likely to provide.
Finally, we need also to pray to God as Jesus did, eyes open – perhaps a metaphor to be very clear in what we are asking – and keep knocking on God’s door. Jesus gave us a way. We just need to follow it.
And this is the Good News of God’s providence that we are given today!
Bishop Ron Stephens
Pastor of St. Andrew’s Parish in Warrenton, VA
The Catholic Apostolic Church in North America (CACINA)
[You can purchase a complete Cycle A of Bishop Ron’s homilies, 75 of them, from amazon.com for $9.99 - “Teaching the Church Year”]