Bulletin: August 02, 2020
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Our readings today remind us of our hunger and thirst, and how God works within us. We human beings are created dependent on food and water, and much more. And God deeply desires that our needs be met. Our physical hunger and thirst point to our deeper hungers: our need for meaning, purpose, and belonging; and most of all, for unity with God. In Matthew’s Gospel passage today, Jesus’ heart is moved with compassion for the people. Jesus not only cures the sick and feeds the multitude, he also establishes bonds of community through the shared meal. Saint Paul shows us that nothing can ultimately separate us from God. Isaiah reminds us of God’s ongoing invitation to us to come and receive. God’s gifts cannot be earned or purchased. God’s grace is offered in abundance. God’s nourishment is the very best possible, and we should accept no substitutes.
NOTHING CAN SEPARATE US
Today’s passage from Saint Paul’s letter to the Romans concludes Chapter 8 with a flourish. It is the exclamation point of Paul’s teaching on the presence of the Spirit within them and among them. The church in Rome faced great suffering as they were marginalized and persecuted for their faith. Paul names both social and cosmic forces that oppress them, over which they have no control. Their trials likely provoked questions that led them to wonder, “Where is God?”
Paul teaches that God is so deeply present within us that nothing can separate us from God. This includes our own forms of resistance. Even when we find myriad ways to avoid and run away, God is waiting patiently. Even when God seems distant or absent, God continues to invite, to welcome, and to speak to us.
IMAGINING GOD’S ABUNDANCE
When reflecting upon today’s Gospel passage from Matthew, the story of the feeding of the multitude, we might consider the role of Jesus’ disciples. Unlike the very similar story in Matthew 15, Jesus responds to the disciples by saying, “Give them some food yourselves”. Jesus is pushing his disciples to think beyond the apparent scarcity, and to open their imaginations to God’s abundance. They are to join in with what God is doing. Jesus then takes, blesses, breaks, and shares the bread (anticipating his action at the Last Supper), and the disciples share the loaves with the crowd.
The stories of the feeding of the multitudes also point ahead to the practice of Eucharist in the Church. The Eucharist itself points ahead to God’s banquet at the consummation of the reign of God, when all will share God’s abundance. We the Church are called to open our imaginations to God present and active, who continually works toward God’s promised future. We are to share in God’s passionate desire to feed the people, and join in what God is doing here and now.