Homily August 3, 2014 18th Sunday of Ordinary
Today’s gospel is interesting in how it presents a picture of Jesus at a low moment. His cousin John the Baptist has been beheaded by Herod. Like any of us hearing bad news, he wants to withdraw and digest the news. He gets in a boat and goes off to a deserted place. But like most of us in our own time, there is no escape. As time and circumstance binds us in time and space, so Jesus is bound to the people anxious to hear him and they even anticipated his destination and some got there first. How fast would we be to put off our grief, our need to be alone, to reach out to others’ needs? Matthew says he saw their needs and started to cure the sick, to walk among them, to be with them. As in his whole life the “I” became “you”. Even when approached to send them away because they had to get food and evening approached, he says no, share what we have. Images of manna in the desert come to mind, but more than that, the passage is a reminder and type of the Eucharist to come at the last supper. From a meager supply, the bread and fish are blessed and broken and shared among all those present. Sharing was not uncommon in that time and world, but the feeding of so many was. Our scriptures today tell us that God looks out for us and calls us to come and eat and drink.
Ironically, if we look at the world today, we see areas of hunger and famine and starvation in various places. How disordered a world we live in that anyone should be hungry. Part of the fallen nature of humanity is the disorder and lack of caring and looking out for others in the name of the love of God. If the world was an ideal place, the food produced could feed everybody to a point of preventing starvation and hunger. Jealousy, nation against nation, just plain evil, points out that sin is still present. Christ’s love and offering for all is there but still many turn from God’s love looking for who knows what that will never put there being at rest. Physical hunger is something that food can satisfy, but that other hunger which is in our spirit, in our psyche is satisfied by a different food, a food over and above just the physical, a food given by Christ: his body and blood. As Christians, we are very much a Eucharistic community, we hunger and are satisfied only by that food Jesus gives us for our journey of love to eternal life. Throughout history God foreshadowed what we have with the manna in the desert, the loaves and fishes of Jesus, but especially now we have the Eucharist given at the last supper. You might say that we are now a people in the desert of life being fed by Jesus on that journey through the darkness around us into that glorious day we meet our Lord.