Saturday 2 August 2014

Eighteenth Sunday of the Year - Sunday, August 3, 2014 -God will provide what we need

To read the texts click on the texts: Isa 55:1-3; Rom 8:35,37-39; Mt 14:13-21

A prosperous and God-fearing industrialist was praying with his son one night at bedtime. He said to his son, “Let us pray for that poor man who lives down the road that the good Lord may come to his aid.” His son turned to him and replied, “But, Dad, we don’t need to bother God about that. We can do it ourselves.”

The  miracle of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish in which twelve baskets are gathered and which is the Gospel text of today is only miracle that Jesus worked that is found in all four Gospels (Mk 6:35-44; Lk 9:10-17; Jn 6:1-15). While each evangelist narrates it slightly different from the others, the numbers that are used are the same in all four Gospels.

A variety of explanations have been offered as to what really happened. While some think that there was a miraculous multiplication of the loaves and fish, though it cannot be explained how, others think that when people saw Jesus and disciples sharing the little they had, there were also motivated to share their own food with others. Still others give a sacramental explanation to the miracle. There is no need to deny the historicity of the miracle simply because we have never witnessed a miraculous multiplication of food. At the same time, however, the literal, historical miracle of Jesus on this occasion is full of ongoing and important significance for Matthew’s community and for us.

The miracle, while it may be seen as the supernatural provision for the physical hunger of a large crowd on a specific occasion, is much more than just that. Indeed, the miracle is a deed filled with symbolism at more than one level. The primary symbolism is that of messianic provision, both now in the present and in the future. This provision takes place in the wilderness, just as manna was provided in the wilderness. It is a kind of messianic provider. People go away from his presence healed and filled.

The feeding of the multitude is thus a sign of good news for Matthew’s Church and also for people of every era. God is not far away and aloof from us. God is not simply a God up there in heaven. Jesus shows us that God does not stand outside of life, but is right here with us, beside us in our broken and troubled and suffering world. It is an indication to all peoples who dare to see and experience that the Messiah is in their midst, offering to them real bread which satisfies. Not only will God offer bread but also the choicest of gifts and these will be given freely and gratuitously. These will be in abundance just as the abundance at the feeding of the five thousand. God gives them freely because of his unconditional love. His love was shown in a variety of ways to the people of Israel, but in the most perfect of ways according to Paul in and through his Son, Jesus Christ. This love is so sure and tangible that not even death will be able to stop its outpouring. Paul reminds us that in all things God’s abundance will, in the final analysis, become sufficient to meet our needs. This will happen right here and right now. In the midst of who and what we are, God will provide.

This does not mean, of course, that people of faith will have no problems or misery. But it does mean that God will give us the grace and aid to bear the load as we overcome and move through whatever may befall us. Ours is not a faith of easy answers and unrealistic solutions. Jesus entered life and died on the cross for us, showing us that in whatever we experience, in whatever may trouble us, in whatever distress or threat we feel, we need not fear because God is in it with us. God will lift up in our midst what we need to make it through.

Like the disciples of Jesus we sometimes find that our care and compassion are very often limited to prayer and good wishes. Like the disciples we wish people well but have no intention of taking positive action to help the situation. And, again, like the disciples, what prevents us from taking positive action is often the realistic assessment that the little we are able to do is not really going to make any appreciable difference.

But in the gospel we see that when we translate our care and compassion into positive action, the little we are able to do is multiplied by God’s grace in such a way that it becomes more than sufficient for the need. In whatever crisis or issue, we face in life, in whatever trouble may come our way, the power of God’s love will provide what we need.

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