Sunday, 31 July 2011

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A, Shaftesbury

Mt 14:13-21; Rom 8:35.37-39
This week I've had a problem, and five days I've fretted about it, it was something that I had to do for God, and for the parish, but I couldn't see HOW to achieve it.
Then, suddenly, I remembered to turn to the Lord about it
-not just rely on my own power
-not act FOR Him but by myself
-but, asking Him to help.
And, instantly, my problem was solved.

Now, we ALL have problems, and today's gospel of the feeding of the 5000 shows us how to address them. I want to take you through this by thinking about a ‘who’, a ‘what’, and a ‘how’.

First, ‘who’ -who must we turn to when we have a problem. Obviously, I'm going to say that we need to turn to the Lord. And yet, if it is so obvious, why is it that we so easily and so often FORGET to turn to Him?
In the feeding of the 5000 the Apostles realised that they had a problem, realised that the people were hungry. They also realised that they needed to turn to the Lord Jesus for a solution to their problem. And Jesus did solve their problem.

Second, ‘what’ -what we must we do when we have a problem. It is not enough simply to say to turn to the Lord, it is not enough simply to turn to the Lord in prayer. I'd suggest to you that the example in today's gospel points out to us that we need turn to the Lord in activity AS WELL AS in prayer: the Apostles brought what they had to Jesus, they brought the five loaves and two fish, they didn't just say we have a problem, rather, they said they had a problem AND they offered what they had TOWARDS a solution, they offered it to God.
Similarly, in our struggles and difficulties we need to not only pray to God, we also need to bring our efforts, our talents, our plans, our everything -we need to bring it to God.
Turning to God for help does not mean failing to use the ‘talents’ that He is given us, rather, turning to God is about the proper way of using the talents He has given us.
We might take another example from the Mass itself, from what we will do in just a few moments: we will bring forward the bread and wine, our offerings, which are symbols of the offering of our whole lives and talents and plans, and He will transform that offering into something we could hardly have imagined: His very self in the Eucharist.

Finally, ‘how’ -how God helps us. I want to point out that God does not always help us in the way that we expect, the way we plan, and sometimes not even in the way we want –but He does help us.
When the Apostles brought the five loaves and two fish to Jesus I very much doubt that they were expecting Him to do something He had never done before, namely, I very much doubt they were expecting Him to suddenly multiply food to feed the 5000. They knew enough to bring the problem to Him, but surely couldn't have known HOW He would resolve it. This, I would suggest to you, is a good illustration of the fact that we never know how He will resolve the problems we bring to Him.
But, we know that He will resolve our problems, and will do so in abundance, just as He not only fed the 5000 but fed them so much that there were "12 baskets full" left over.
He is a good God, He cares for us, He has the power to aid us, and the Church gives us the account of the feeding of the 5000 as one of so many examples of how He has done so in the past, and will do so in the future -if we just bring to Him our problems.

As we heard St Paul remind us in our second reading, though we do have problems these are not things that separate us from the Lord but are the trials in which He will aid us:
"Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried... or lacking food or clothes... For I am sure of this: ...nothing can come... Between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.”(Rom 8:35-39)

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