18th Sunday in Ordinary Time-A
Isaiah 55: 1-3
Romans 8: 35, 37-39
Matthew 14: 13-21
There is a story about Mother Teresa of Calcutta that when she first arrived in India and saw all the poor and hungry, the sick and dying, she prayed: “Lord, do something about this.”
And God answered her prayer by saying: “I have. I have sent you.”
What if Mother Teresa had said “no” to God? Look at all the good that would have gone undone. And this question points us to the scene in today’s Gospel.
John the Baptist had just been put to death by King Herod, and Jesus was grieving. He needed some time to be alone so He got into a boat and went off to a deserted place to pray.
The townspeople heard about this, so they were already there waiting for Him when Jesus arrived. Jesus, putting aside His own needs, felt pity for them and He cured their sick.
When it got to be evening, the disciples encouraged Jesus to send the people away so they could buy food. And Jesus answered them: “There is no need for them to go away. Give them some food yourselves.”
The disciples responded: “Five loaves and two fish are all that we have here.”
Then Jesus said: “Bring them here to me.” And Jesus, looking up to heaven, said the blessing and had the disciples distribute the loaves and fish to the crowd. “They all ate and were satisfied.” There were five thousand men there, plus women and children. And when they were all finished eating, there were twelve wicker baskets full of leftovers.
This Gospel scene involves us. We are like those disciples. We look around us and find so much need – near and far. And the invisible enemy, the coronavirus pandemic, is changing our lives in so many ways – big and small.
We can wonder: “What can I do? This is overwhelming. Lord, do something about this.”
And God answers our prayers, like He answered Mother Teresa’s, by saying: “I have. I have sent you.”
And we answer back: “But Lord, I have so little to offer.”
And He says: “Give it to me.” And, when we put what little we think we have into His hands, He blesses that little and it turns into plenty.
We are born with the sense that we do not have enough, that we are going to run out. And so we spend our lives acquiring things, storing things, even hoarding things. We learn as children to say: “It’s mine!” And we continue that theme as adults: “I have so little, really. I have nothing to spare. If I am not careful, I will soon run out of everything!”
When are we really going to trust the Lord – and put our time, our talent and our treasure into His almighty hands? Look at what He did with so little in today’s Gospel. What if the disciples had said: “No, Jesus, you can’t have our five loaves and two fish. They are all that we have, and we are hungry too”?
But they said “yes” – and there was plenty for everyone, with leftovers besides.
“Lord, do something about this.”
And God answers: “I have. I have sent you.”
And this is something that we do at every Mass during the Preparation of the Gifts, the Offertory. Bread and wine are the gifts that we offer the Lord. They are not worth much in terms of dollars and cents – some unleavened bread and some plain wine. But they are “fruit of the earth [wheat]… fruit of the vine [grapes] …and work of human hands [bread and wine].” They are our gifts to the Lord.
And then, through the power of Jesus’ priesthood, the priest – in the person of Jesus Christ – accepts these gifts and places them upon the altar. In the Eucharistic Prayer that follows, he calls down the Holy Spirit upon them. Then, using Jesus’ own words, says: “This is My Body…. This is the chalice of My Blood.” And our gifts to Jesus – bread and wine – are now changed and have become Jesus’ gift of Himself to us – His Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity. Our gifts to Him are now returned to us as “the Bread of Life and the Chalice of Salvation” [Eucharistic Prayer 2].
Jesus is never outdone in His generosity.
Everything we have is a gift from God – even our next breath and our next opportunity. He asks us to place our lives in His hands – not so that He can snatch His blessings away from us. But so that He can multiply His blessings for us and for the world.
There are so many needs and challenges around us everywhere: hunger and homelessness, racial injustice and disrespect for human life, political chaos, hurricanes and storms, and a raging pandemic. These and so many other global and local outcries grab our attention and tug at our hearts.
“Lord, do something about this,” we pray with Mother Teresa.
And God answers our prayers – as He answered hers – by saying: “I have. I have sent you.”
Lord, help us to place our lives in your hands. As you multiplied the five loaves and two fish to satisfy a hungry crowd, we ask you to multiply what we offer you today and use it to satisfy the hungry hearts of your people.
Jesus, help us to trust in you. Amen.