Life on the Chrism Trail

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

August 2, 2020
Saint Patrick Cathedral
Fort Worth, Texas

Isaiah 55:1-3
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Matthew 14:13-21

Jesus, hearing of the death of John the Baptist, seeks to be alone. Jesus shows us that at moments like this we all need time to stop, to remember and to mourn what we have lost. The crowd does not give Jesus this time. Not being left alone to reflect on the death of his cousin, Jesus begins to heal the sick. As evening approached, His disciples — in fear that they do not have enough — prompts them to want to send the crowd away, but Jesus does not send them away. Fear scatters where Christ unites.

Instead, Jesus instructs His disciples to bring to Him the little food available and Jesus instructs the crowd to sit on the grass. Five loaves and two fish amounts to next to nothing for such a crowd. In fact, such a small amount is very dangerous in the face of such a hungry crowd, because scarcity incites fear, that turns to greed, that becomes anger, that erupts into violence. Yet, Jesus blesses the food and gives it to the disciples to distribute among the people and amazingly all eat their fill with enough left over to fill twelve baskets. God’s grace heals us as it more than suffices for our needs in our scarcity.

In the Gospel, the disciples seem to be more aware of Jesus’ miracle than the crowd is. The crowd of people might not have realized that they were sharing only five loaves and two fish. But miracles are not always noticed by those who are most affected by them. Even in His miracles, Jesus is selfless, drawing attention always to the Father. Jesus feeds all not just with food, but also with grace and communion. Among the lessons for us in this miracle are that God makes sure that we have what we need, and that when we share whatever gifts and talents He gives us, especially when we think that they are not enough, the consequences are beyond our expectations. Our insufficiency is itself a gift of grace. Fear scatters where Christ unites.

Isaiah prophesies the greatest lesson of this miracle in our first reading today. “All you who are thirsty, come to the water. Come, you without money, to receive grain and eat … to drink wine and milk.” The prophet invites us, who have nothing, to the banquet where God provides everything we need and more — when we are willing to let go and give the little we have. The miracle of the Gospel today foreshadows that banquet — the banquet where all will gather in the kingdom of God, the banquet of which the Eucharist is a foretaste.

The eternal banquet of the Kingdom is foreshadowed by what we have come here to celebrate and to offer. At this altar, we bring our fears, our failures, and our inadequacies, and Christ gives us the gift of Himself so that we can love Him and each other in the gift of His Communion where sin and its effects have no power. Whether we go away from this altar and table filled or hungry depends on His gift of our faith. If we believe that like the Apostles, Jesus has chosen us as friends and sends us to bring His mercy and hope to others, if we believe that the self-sacrificing love of Christ is the only way to live, then the miracle of the Eucharist has begun to transform us. Fear scatters where Christ unites us.

%d bloggers like this: