18th Sunday of Ordinary Time 2 ~ August 2020
Mass Readings: I: Is.55: 1-3; Responsorial: Ps. 145; II: Rom. 8:35, 37-39; Gospel: Mt. 14: 13-21
Today the Gospel of Matthew shares the account of Jesus feeding the multitudes. This story contains so many lessons, challenges and encouragements for anyone seeking to grow stronger in their faith. Lessons of simple faith-filled obedience, of God calling us beyond our resources and abilities to lessons of sharing even if it would seem precarious to our well being and of course the profound lesson of Jesus loving, caring for the soul that hungers are all in this holy meal rich in nutrition for eternal peace and life.
But in these many lessons it is easy, at times to overlook the magnitude of this miracle. The size of the crowds was extraordinary for the location and resources at hand. 5000 men PLUS women and children were reported to be at hand and hungry. To help picture this crowd it may help if you have ever been to or seen Oracle Park, home of the San Francisco Giants. In a normal, non-Covid afflicted year this baseball venue can easily seat at least 50,000 people.
While the crowd Jesus fed that day was only a fraction of what the ball park would hold it was still immense, especially in light of the location and resources that were available. For sake of our thoughts the crowd Jesus fed was probably at least a tenth of a full crowd watching the Giants play baseball.
And Jesus said: “…give them some food yourselves.” For many to have one extra person show up, unexpected, for supper may be a challenge. But for the disciples that day they had no plans to feed a multitude. Indeed God loves to surprise us beyond our abilities! All the disciples could find was a young boy willing to share his five loaves and two fish.
What is clearly an impossible situation has all the ingredients of a disaster. A huge hungry crowd plus far inadequate resources is more a recipe for a riot than a miracle…except for God. And it is in the light of God’s Word, His truth, the power and grace of this day is realized.
The prophet Isaiah spoke to the multitudes of his time that God was calling each one to come. The thirsty were called to come and drink. The hungry were invited to come and eat. Those who were broke were to come and know they were welcome and would be satisfied. God through this prophet was calling a multitude, hungry for bread and water but even more for the food of the soul God alone could provide. The Israel Isaiah was speaking to were a people stuffed and filled with the hedonistic idolatry and violent strife rampant in their lives. Their world offered so much…that was false and empty…deadly. But God called them to be filled and satisfied in Him.
The epistle of the Romans in our second reading shares the passionate promise of the Holy Spirit that nothing can or will separate us from the love of God. Famine, peril, sickness or war, things present or things not seen, things past or future NOTHING can come between us and the Love who is God. These extraordinary promises from God, who cannot lie, are affirmed in the Psalm for today. Psalm 145 states in holy simplicity: “The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His works…”.
These exquisite affirmations from God are so deeply healing and encouraging to our own souls. But they are also very difficult to believe. For the soul, starving for mercy, as was St. Peter after our Lord’s resurrection the voice of Jesus calling him and the others to come from the boat and “come and eat” were almost too good to be true. Peter knew his horrid failure and denial of God, his friend, Jesus. But Jesus still called…”come and eat.”
We can see, in hind sight, Peter’s difficult journey and say how great was God’s love and mercy. But let us go back to the hungry multitudes gathered that day with Jesus. They had listened, with vast, varying degrees of maturity, faith and comprehension. They had heard. And their stomachs growled with hunger. Their faith… some would believe and follow Him. Some would turn away on paths of further wanderings.
But the Gospels are very clear: “ALL were satisfied.” Jesus did not evaluate and judge those who were worthy to eat. ALL were welcome. ALL were fed. All were satisfied. There were, in all realistic likelihood, a full array of the sins of humanity gathered in the Presence of Christ. And He fed them all.
Now some might think of other places in the Gospel where Jesus spoke of those invited to the feast and who would be rejected upon arrival. Indeed those Gospel truths could seem to contradict the lessons of today. But if we listen carefully we realize ..clarity and confirmation.
Jesus calls, invites, as we are, with our hungers and thirsts to be fed and satisfied. He calls us to be filled with the life and assurances of God. And as we understand the multitudes in our story today…ALL were satisfied.” But not all grew on in the fullness of God. Some would allow God to continue to nourish and fill their lives. Some would, after their satisfying fullness wander off to forget and neglect He who called them and cared for them as no other. They would once again search the world to satisfy their hunger that had returned. And some would wander off but when their hunger would return they would return to He who is the Bread of Life.
There was one other miracle that occurred that day that would help all who continued with Christ to know His fullness. As the hungering souls were brought the bread and fish by the disciples they were each called to receive their meal but also to pass on, to share that which they had received with others in their midst. The deeply filling food of sharing allowed those who were willing to grow on in the fullness of God.
Today, as we do miss our Lord’s Eucharistic meal in these unique times, may we still feast and share on the fullness of His Presence in His Word and in that richness share with those we meet who hunger. May we too share in the miracle of allowing: ALL to be satisfied.