[Homily for 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A, August 3, 2014.
Isa 55:1-3 / Ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18 / Rom 8:35, 37-39 Matt 14:13-21]
There exists a very common gastronomic experience among people of all races and nations. I have not done a detailed anthropological or cultural study on this but I have seen it repeated in various cultures in different nations. To what do I refer? Going to a house and discovering that they are serving food. At first one might say that they do not feel hungry or even insist that they are not hungry at all. What happens? When you see the food, its colors, its shape, the smell…you lick your lips, the stomach juices start to swirl, the pupils widen…in a word you experience hunger! In the end you eat more than the others at the table.
Apply this very human experience to the spiritual realm. A person is or most people today are not immediately or apparently in need of anything spiritual. They are doing just fine. They do not go to Church perhaps and even may never make much effort to pray. What is the verdict? That they are not hungry for spiritual nourishment? That would be a premature conclusion without bringing out the food. You need to show the food to bring out the hunger!
Once I celebrated a Mass for 150 parents of a school, where the pupils are aged 2-5 years old. I was told beforehand that many of the parents do not seem so interested in spiritual things. I gave the homily and with the help of the Holy Spirit, delivered an animated sermon, full of personal experiences and the Word of God. Afterwards, what a response! Some people told me that normally they do not listen much to the homily, another lady told me it was the best homily she had ever heard and other couples were asking where they could hear more.
Why am I telling you this? As publicity for my book of homilies? Yes. Just kidding! Actually, I am telling you this to show that when you produce the spiritual food the person discovers their deep down hunger for God, their deep seated need for what is spiritual. You need to show the food to bring out the spiritual hunger.
Isaiah talks of this hunger in the first reading: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life” (Isaiah 55:1-3). The prophet Amos also talks of this – “Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD, when I will send famine upon the land: Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, but for hearing the word of the LORD. Then shall they wander from sea to sea and rove from the north to the east In search of the word of the LORD, but they shall not find it. On that day, fair virgins and young men shall faint from thirst” (Amos 8:11-13).
Dramatic stuff! We can easily pass over this and think it is too much, a little exaggerated. Have you seen a youth passing out from hunger? Last week I was talking to a youth who was addicted to computer games. He was so hungry that he was eating them or playing them for 18 hours a day. He was fainting in his studies and the only “friends” he had were virtual ones. How many youth are trying to satiate their hunger and thirst in pornography, alcohol, drugs, promiscuity – both heterosexual and homosexual? Can we not see how hungry this world is?
In the gospel today there is a big hungry crowd and the disciples want to send them away. But our Lord is very clear – “You yourselves give them something to eat!” (Matthew 14:13-21). It is easy to think or hope that others will do it. This is called omission. Often a great sin is the sin of omission. I always relate omission to o-mission or zero mission or no mission. “Anyone who knows the right thing to do and does not do it commits sin,” said St James (James 4:17). How great when the Holy Spirit is the one moving you, prompting you to reach out to others. I experienced that one week on the feast of St James. One nun texted me to tell me that she needed to speak to me, in a crisis. I had a busy day, but I told her to come in the afternoon. She texted me back: “Too urgent Father, I am in crisis. I will come at lunch.” I was very concerned. She arrived and I said we could talk in the chapel. “No need,” she replied looking very happy.
“I am not in a crisis. I just said that to make sure you would see me. You see I made a dessert for you and the community. Happy Feast day!” When I recovered from my surprise I started to laugh. She really got me! The dessert, a mango float, was delicious. The other missionaries said that they would pray she would have another “crisis” soon!
Let us pray for the grace this day to be able to offer Jesus to others. Let us pray that we will be able to show them his face, reveal to them his love, give them the living bread of the Word of God and see how hungry the people will become. Amen.