Sunday, 3 August 2008

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury

There is a very simple question that we need to repeatedly focus on: is God REALLY active in our world and in our lives?

I ask that question in the light of today’s Gospel account (Mt 14:13-21) of the feeding of the 5,000. Because there are sceptics alive today who say that such a miracle could not have really occurred –“God doesn’t do such things” they say. And, more certainly, “God doesn’t do such things in OUR lives –he’s not active now”.

Well, such an attitude fails to treat the people of Jesus’s time as real people with real brains of their own. Because those people were people just like us. For them, too, God’s activity could seem distant and remote:
They heard of signs and wonders of the Old Testament, but they probably didn’t really expect such things to happen still.
They heard of miracles in distant places, but they probably didn’t expect one to happen in THEIR town.

So when the Lord Jesus Christ somehow fed a crowd of over 5,000, those people would have been amazed. They were not fools, they would first have wondered: Did he have a stash of food hidden that we didn’t see? Did lots of us actually have our own food hidden? These would have been their first thoughts. These would have been the first thoughts of the 12 apostles too.
What left them all amazed and in awe of the Lord was that it was evident to them that some MIGHTY deed of God had just been worked.
And like any of US, in such a situation, they must have been left thinking: God does actually work deeds in OUR day and in OUR place and in OUR lives.

We, today, like them 2000 years ago, hear of miracles and wonders and signs.
We hear of them from long ago, in the Bible, in the lives of the saints.
We hear of them far away, things that even today we hear of every year in places like Lourdes, Fatima, and Medjugorje.
But the truth, my friends, is that God was not only active long ago, and is not only active far away, but he is active now and active here and active in your own life.
And most of the time he seems to do little for us, is because we refuse to see it or refuse to let Him, as the sad refrain from the Gospels often said, “He worked few signs there BECAUSE OF THEIR LACK OF FAITH”.
God is active in our lives by His guiding Providence, by the strength of His grace, by the nudges and calls He makes to us if we will but be open to them. He may not be active doing what we would tell Him to do –but that does not mean He is not active.

There is one activity of God, in particular, that I want to refer to, and that is in the Eucharist.
The promises and prophecies of the Old Testament said that God would come and feed His people. We need to be fed in the body. But EVEN MORE we need to be fed in the soul. We feeding of the 5000 was a sign of the feeding of the Eucharist that Christ was to institute in the Mass. If you listened to the words of the Gospel, it echoed the words we hear in every Mass, words of the Last Supper: He took the bread, he raised His eyes to Heaven, He blessed the Bread, He broke it, and it gave it to them –THROUGH the ministry of the apostles, as He does now through the ministry of His priests.
The Lord knows what we need, and in every reception of Holy Communion He gives Himself to us not just as Himself, but with the specific graces we need for this time. He is always everything, and I am never fully open to Him.
But He always knows the graces I need, and that is what is available to me.
Will I need patience today? This Holy Communion will come with the graces for it.
Will I need strength today? This Holy Communion will give me that.
But only if I believe it, and only if I open myself to it.

I started by asking: Is God REALLY active in our world and in our lives? If we have the faith to say yes, then it is in this Mass that we will find Him, and find His activity for us.

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