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How was your week?

August 4, 2014

Homily for the 18th Sunday, Ordinary Time, Year A. The readings are Isaiah 55:1-3, Psalm 145, Romans 8:35, 37-39 and Matthew 14:13:21.

I didn’t have a great week: It was busy (that’s why this is not getting posted until Monday): A little too much to do at work; a funeral on Tuesday – a parishioner; those are always hard – and Saturday I was supposed to give a talk to a group in Caledon. I drove for 45 minutes and when I arrived there was no one there: I had the wrong date! Suffice it to say that I’m glad it’s a long weekend. But I wonder what the week was like for other people. How was the week for people stuck on the Burlington Skyway bridge on Thursday? Or how was the week for people who were planning on traveling to Ottawa or Montreal on the train? How was the week for those Malaysian and Dutch airline investigators who are trying to get to the crash site in Ukraine? Or how was the week for all the aid workers in Liberia, Guinea, Sierra Leone and Ivory Coast who are working with Ebola virus patients? How was the week for those Ebola patients and their families? How was the week for people living in Baghdad? How was it for people living in Gaza? I wonder what the week was like for the family of Jaime Palm, the 15-year old girl who died in that strange accident on the soccer field in Bradford. My week was not great, but it was not bad. There’s always someone in the world who is having a bad week.

This Sunday’s Gospel story is the only story that is found in all four Gospels. This week we heard Matthew’s version, but it’s also found in Mark, Luke and John. It’s a story that we’ve heard so often – we know it so well – Jesus feeds the 5000; the multiplication of the 5 loaves and 2 fish (and half the time we say 5 fish and 2 loaves!) that we don’t really pay attention to it and we miss some other parts of the story. Today’s reading begins with Jesus not having a good week. He’s just found out that his cousin John the Baptist, who was in prison, has been beheaded by King Herod and so He goes off to a deserted place by himself. That’s what I want to do when I am having a bad day or I am feeling sad or have received bad news; I want to go off by myself – to pray, but also to be alone. I imagine that Jesus was feeling a bit sad, but also a bit angry and maybe even a bit afraid because He knows that what happened to John will likely also happen to Him. And then the crowd show up. I don’t know about you, but when I am in a crappy mood, I want to be alone. I don’t want people around and the last thing I want to do is talk to people, listen to people or listen to their problems. But Jesus goes to be with them. He spends time with them and he cures them.

So it’s not a surprise that at the end of the day the disciples come up to Jesus and say, “hey, it’s been a long day and we’re tired and we’re hungry and so are the people. Why not call it a day? How about we go spend some time, just us? ‘Cause we’re having a bad week.” The disciples were probably also afraid because of what happened to John the Baptist. And it would have been quite alright for Jesus to say, “Yeah you’re right. It’s been a long day. We’ve done good work today. Tell the people to come back tomorrow; let’s go have a pint.” But Jesus doesn’t say that. Had I written the story, Jesus would’ve said, “don’t send them away, I’m God; I’ll feed them!” But he doesn’t say that either. Instead he says something that I think the disciples found quite baffling: “Don’t send them away, you give them something to eat.” You give them something to eat.

We come to Jesus tired and sad, with our fears and our doubts and He turns us right around and send us to do more work! Because in sending us we are healed. In sending us, Jesus heals us. But we don’t want to be sent; we want Jesus to take care of us and so we respond the same way the disciples responded: “I’m too old”, or “I’m too young”: I don’t speak good English. I’m not a priest. I don’t have a car. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough time. I’m too busy. I’m tired. I’m having a bad week. All we have is two fish and five loaves and there are like five thousand gazillion people! Are you nuts? (That’s what the disciples are saying, I think.) And Jesus says, “that’s all I need; bring it to me.” Jesus takes the little we have – our little time, our little talent, our little treasure – so that He can offer it to the Father and multiply it. And, oh, the wonderful things that we can do when Jesus takes our little meager offerings – those things that are nothing without Him – and multiplies them so that there is such an abundance – more than we could ever possibly need.

Jesus sends us and in sending us he heals us. But first we have to come to him. But we don’t want to come to him. We don’t come to him because, sometimes we think that our problems are not big enough. We say, “surely God has more important things to worry about than my little problems.” Or we don’t come to him because we think that it’s too late for us. We are so bad, such terrible sinners; “you don’t know what I’ve done.” I”m  a lost cause and God couldn’t possibly want to have anything to do with me. We think that some times. Or sometimes we think that God must be tired of us because it’s always the same thing over and over and over and over again, isn’t it? Always the same sin and God must be tired of us. But God never tires of us. Pope Francis has said this many times: God never tires of forgiving us. God never tires of welcoming us. God never tires of feeding us. We are the ones who tire of coming to him.

But don’t be tired. Come.

Isaiah tells us in the first reading that if you’re thirsty, come. If you’re hungry, come. If you don’t have any money, come. Come – there’s lots for everyone; an abundance. It doesn’t matter who you are, or what you’ve done, or where you are or how you are: Come.

Because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ: Nothing! Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not disease, or persecution, or afflictions, or stress or doubt or fear, or the Ebola virus, or pro-Russian rebels, or Isis or Hamas terrorists, or car accidents or funerals or death… nothing. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ. Except our own pride when we say I’m too good or I am not good enough!

Come. How do we come to Jesus? We come to him in prayer. How many of you are spending some time in prayer every day? How many of you spend some time a week in adoration in front of the Blessed Sacrament? We come to Jesus in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and Reconciliation because those are the two Sacraments that we can receive every day. We come to Jesus in the Word. How many of you spend time reading Scripture every day? Just one verse every day? We come to Jesus in the Word. And we come to Jesus in serving the other. That’s why Jesus say, “you give them something to eat.” Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel, that we are to remove our sandals before the sacred ground of the other (EG#169). How beautiful. That’s when we realise that the other is not “other” but “myself.” We come to Jesus in serving the other.

Today, Jesus invites us to come. Come. If you’re having a bad week, everyone has bad weeks; come. If you’re thirsty, everyone is thirsty; come. If you’re hungry, everyone is hungry; come. If you’re searching, everyone is searching; come. Come. Jesus never tires of feeding us.

The psalm today says that God opens up his hand to feed us – like a mother feeds her babies – and He satisfies all our needs. God never tires of feeding us and not only does He feed us, but He himself is the very food that we need.
It doesn’t matter what kind of week you’re having… come.

From → English, Reflections

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