Sunday, August 3, 2014

The God Who Feeds - 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time

Today's readings deal with God's providence. The first reading is from Isaiah.  It reminds us that God is the one who provides for our needs.  If we are thirsty, have no money, grain to eat, God will be there and supply it.  It reminds us that we must not think of money, or our efforts as an end in themselves.  God truly cares for us and will nourish us if we seek Him.

The responsorial Psalm responds to this by reminding us again that the "hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs." Each verse tells us how God is there for each one of us.  He looks upon us and sees our needs. God is never far from those who trust in Him and call upon Him for assistance. In the second reading, St. Paul reminds us that nothing separates us from Christ.  Our stresses, hunger, suffering, lack of material basics such as clothing; none of these separates us from Christ.  He goes on even to say that neither death nor life, nor the angels or principalities, nor things in the present or yet to come will separate us from Christ and His love.  These are powerful words reminding us of the first reading and the psalm stating that God is always there for us.

Many times we lose hope and even faith.  Things pop out of nowhere and stress us.  Perhaps a big bill comes, we lose our jobs, fail classes, get sick; these remind us of our mortality.  They remind us that we are not truly in control of our lives.  Not even the rich are in control of their own lives.  How many celebrities struggle with depression and act this stress out by living life recklessly and even "opting out" or committing suicide?  These people seem to have it all.  They have nice mansions, maids, butlers, cars, can travel anywhere at will, yet they are not happy.  Money, fame and success are obviously not the ends we should strive for.  However, despite whatever may come our way, God is always there for each one of us. If you let the stress or problem facing your life get the best of you, then you will be blinded and will not see God who is there picking you up from the floor, so to speak.

Lastly, the Gospel is relatively short. It begins with Jesus learning of the death of His cousin John the Baptist.  The Gospel tells us that Jesus left a boat He was on in order to have some alone time. However, a crowd came and followed Him. Jesus saw all these people seeking Him and felt bad for them and went to care for them.  Here we see how Jesus is truly man and truly God. He is suffering inside like any of us would if we heard of the death of a loved one. Moreover, He sets aside His alone time to care for others.  This is what we as Catholics must do. We must be ready to serve others whether we know them or not. Even if we are in need ourselves, we must set that aside and help others.

The Gospel continues by telling us that the disciples wanted to get rid of the people because they were many, were hungry and probably annoying.  Nevertheless, Christ tells them that the crowd doesn't need to go and tells the disciples to feed them.  The Scriptures tell us there were 5,000 men, not counting the women and children present. Some estimate that perhaps over 20,000 were present!  I can imagine the look on their faces as Christ told them this.

How can we feed so many people if we have only five loaves and two fishes?

This is probably what they asked themselves.  Here we see how the disciples still had the veil over their eyes in regards to faith.  They have seen Christ perform miracles and know He is the Son of God, yet they still wonder how they are going to feed the large crowd. How many times do we indirectly doubt God?  We know what God can do, we know our faith, yet we sometimes forget that nothing is bigger than God. We stress over things for nothing because we forget God is there and will provide.  The command of Jesus to feed the people is a reminder that God wants us to do the work, but He will be there supporting it. He will not abandon us in our work in the world.  If God wants you to be a priest or religious sister/brother, it will happen.  If God wants you to start a ministry or something, it will happen. You will do the work, but He is the one with the strings, so to speak.

Lastly, Christ does the miracle of the loaves and fishes.  All those present eat until they are full and there were still twelve baskets left over.  The number twelve has a symbolic meaning in the Bible.  It can mean the months of the year, the tribes of Israel, the number of apostles and completion of something.  Here it means that Christ has the fullness of food, or that He gives to eat what never runs out.  In other words, we find completion in Him. All of our needs are met completely and forever by Him.

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