Thursday, August 4, 2011

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

HOMILY    18th Sunday in Ordinary Time  Cycle A        July 31, 2011

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist,
he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself.     
            Why?   Jesus was grieving.   We see the great human affection of Jesus for John, looking up to him in a way.  Jesus admired him.  So there is sadness.  Jesus’ good friend was just unjustly executed, and of course Jesus is upset.  We’ve all experienced losses of people close to us, and we know it hurts.
            Maybe for Jesus there is also some sober realization that what happened to John was also likely to happen to Jesus if he continued down the path of proclaiming the Kingdom of God.  That, unfortunately, is the story of all the prophets.  And now it has come home, has come very close to Jesus in the death of his close friend, and on the human level His teacher and model, John the Baptist.  So Jesus has to think about the consequences of his own actions.  
            Grieving and wrestling with his own vocation Jesus seeks to be alone with His Abba.  Jesus goes to a deserted place by himself.   A perfectly normal, understandable desire to withdraw, to grieve, and to think, and to pray.
            But this was not to be.   “The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns.   he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,”   Jesus is denied the respite to be with his grief and his questions. 
            And this is the really interesting part, which is Jesus’ reaction.  Jesus doesn’t react at all like I would react.  Jesus doesn’t say, “Can’t I get a moment to myself?  Hey, I am hurting and I need a little peace and quiet.  This is time for me now.  You all go away and come see me next week.” 
            Jesus doesn’t say that.  Instead, the Gospel says, When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd,  his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.”
            Jesus lets go of his own hurt and pain, his own needs, and responds instinctively to the people before him.  His heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick.
            Contrast that to the approach of the disciples.  When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said,   “This is a deserted place and it is already late;
dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
            The disciples see the crowd as a problem.  They want to get rid of them.  They are an inconvenience and a bother. Even a threat!  Dismiss the crowds, send them away, get rid of them, is the disciples’ approach.
            Jesus’ response is pointed and classic.  Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away;   give them some food yourselves.”
            Jesus is challenging the disciples (and that always means you and me) to change their way of thinking, their way of feeling, their way of seeing.   Jesus saw the crowd and was moved to pity.  He healed.  He taught.  He forgave.  Jesus did not focus on himself and his own hurt and need, but rather on the crowd and their need.
            The disciples, on the other hand, saw a lot of hungry mouths, a problem they want to get rid of.
            What do we see?  We see famine and starvation in East Africa.  We see youth on the street who have been rejected by their families, who have messed up and who smell bad.  We see mothers with children living in cars and shelters and tents.  We see elderly who have to choose between their medications and food.  We see people addicted, and broken and hurting.  We see people hungry and needy in many, many ways.
            We usually see them as a problem. We are overwhelmed by their need.  We want to get rid of them. We want to send them away.  We understand perfectly where the disciples in the Gospel are coming from, because they are us.
            Jesus, in the Gospel today, right here and now, says to you and to me, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” 
            Jesus shows us how.  Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples,
who in turn gave them to the crowds.   They all ate and were satisfied,” 
This action by Jesus is Eucharistic. Jesus said the blessing, in Hebrew the Berekah:  “Blessed are you Lord, God of all creation, for through your goodness we have this bread to offer you.” 
            Jesus took the bread, blessed it, broke it and shared it.  That is a Eucharistic action.  It is what we will do right here at this table in just a few minutes.  And our participation in the Eucharist has the power to transform us to see in a new way, to see as Jesus sees, to see with compassion and with generosity in place of seeing with fear or greed. 
            Jesus invites us to the Eucharistic table so that we might be transformed, just as the bread and wine are transformed. We become the Body and Blood of Christ, so that just like Jesus we can let go of our focus on our own self to respond to those in front of us.
            Be open to transformation, like the bread in the Gospel was transformed to feed 5, 000 men plus women and children, like the bread will be transformed at this altar into the Body of Christ, so you are called to be transformed. 
Open your heart to see with the eyes of Jesus.     AMEN

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