Two weeks ago we were invited to be kind, to notice kindness and last week we were invited to do that which is pleasing to God – set our wants aside and do that which serves the common good. As we begin today I want you to think about those times when people said, “Leave that alone it is none of your business!” or “That is not your job – you do this and leave that be!” or “I don’t need your help! I will do this myself!” or “You are not smart enough to do this!” or “You are not good enough to do this!” Have you ever in your life heard those phrases? They are not nice…they are painful in fact! I am sorry to have you think about them – but I want you to hold those memories for a moment and listen for God’s word – what God wants to say to you, what God does say to you!
In our first reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah, we hear God say, “Come to me you who are hungry, thirsty, poor, neglected – I will provide for you. Don’t waste your money on things that don’t satisfy. Listen to me and be nourished – because my love for you is sure.”
In the gospel, Matthew tells us that John has just been killed by Herod – that is what happens when you challenge the social order – we don’t like people or leaders who invite us to change. Jesus goes away to grieve. While he thinks he is alone – he is not. The crowds find him and they have needs and Jesus responds. Jesus places their need for healing ahead of his own need to grieve. When evening comes, the disciples want Jesus to send the crowds away. Jesus reminds them that they should feed the people. The disciples go in search of food but find very little. Jesus blesses it and thousands are fed.
In Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul reminds the Christians of Rome that nothing can separate them from Christ’s love. Nothing in heaven or on earth can make God stop loving them.
So what has that got to do with us?
So often in our lives we receive and we give mixed messages. We tell our family members and those who are important to us…I love you and then we add conditions…and we hear that same message…that is not all…we are often told we need to take more responsibility and then we are told we are not needed. The messages are sometimes delivered subtly and sometimes with brutal force.
Today in sacred scripture, our first reading reminds us that God sees us and that God cares for us. God invites us into a relationship that is rooted in love – unconditional love that touches our life, our hungers and our thirsts. In the Gospel, Jesus makes it clear that despite his own personal grief – the sufferings of others are important. He allows himself to be impacted by their suffering. He temporarily sets his grief aside and reaches out to those who are in need.
After a long day of healing – evening comes and the crowds are hungry. When the disciples suggest they have nothing for the crowds to eat – that they are not responsible – the people can feed themselves, Jesus reminds them that they are responsible for the folks who are hungry. The disciples gather what they can – a few loaves of bread and fish. After the blessing of Jesus thousands are fed.
Folks we are not responsible for everything but today scripture makes it clear we are responsible for something, we are responsible for each other – in the midst of our lives, our struggles, we are gently invited to be attentive to the needs of others. In our grief, can we reach out? When we have little for ourselves, can we share what little we have. It is amazing what sharing can do…think of the Potluck meals we used to have.
When I was in a leadership position with the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate we had a meeting in San Diego – one day we went to visit our Oblate brothers who were working with the poor in Tijuana. There is a huge slum – thousands of people. The slum is near the garbage dump. The poor make a living sifting through the garbage for food – they fix broken things – things that the rich have thrown away. We took a walk through the slum – many are Catholic. Two women recognized the priests and they invited us to come and have tea…just tea…that is all they had…they lived in shacks – constructed from tin – the poverty hurt my heart. They shared what they had…I was so humbled. I was given an example to follow.
God usually does not do things that are flashy and attract lots of attention. God is usually changing things one person at a time. Jesus fed thousands. It all started with a little – five loaves and two fish – people sharing what they had.
You and I, we matter to God. What we do makes a difference. We may not see it, people might not give us an award, we may not get paid big bucks, but in point of fact in the same way that Jesus needed the disciples, today Jesus needs us. Not only that, what we do on a small scale has a huge impact as God continues to build up the Kingdom of God. God needs us and we are responsible for giving what we can – whether it is our time, our talents or our treasures. It is not how much we give – it is that we give as we are able.
Sometimes we offer and our gifts are turned down. That hurts. Hopefully, we step back, remember who we are and when a new need emerges, we offer again. It is what we do. It is who we are! Our persistent generosity is a sign of God’s love – that nothing can separate us from the love of God poured out in Christ Jesus the Lord.
You see – we are the connectors. We connect God’s love to those people who are hurting and in need.
Fr. Doug Jeffrey, OMI