Monday, July 30, 2018

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time Cycle B St Austin July 29, 2018

          I know a number of people who temporarily or more permanently have stopped watching the news and reading the paper, because so much of it is ugly and depressing.  There is division, conflict, name-calling, anger, hatred, groups beating up on other groups, and on and on.  People who are angry at other races, other genders, other classes, other groups, other religions, other sexual orientations, other pollical parties, other nationalities:  you name it and someone is angry over it.  And they want to divide, separate, and keep others at a distance.
          Our second reading today stands in stark contrast.  St. Paul states:  “I, …, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, …. Bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace:  One bond and one spirit, ….one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”  
          St Paul is calling the Ephesians, and us, to be witnesses to unity, and more, to be effective change agents for unity, or in religious language to be a sacrament of unity, “with all humility and gentleness, with patience bearing with one another though love,”   
          This is also what Vatican Council II taught us.  In the vision of the Council the church is to be in the world as an effective witness and change agent, or to use a more religious term, a sacrament, of the salvation of the whole world.
          This is why St Paul is so concerned about the unity of the church, why St Paul is so insistent on the Ephesians, and us, living in unity. 
  “as you were called to the one hope of your call, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.”
          That is an immense task, to be the sign and the effective agent of the unity of all the world.  But that is what a sacrament is: an effective sign that makes real and present the reality it symbolizes.  And we are to be the sacrament of the salvation of the whole world.
          What, us?  We are to represent, and so make effective, the unity of all the whole world under God?  But we are so small, so un-important, so not very powerful!!!
          Time to turn to the Gospel.  Jesus is preaching to a huge crowd.  They are hungry.  Jesus asks, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”   How can we satisfy their hunger, their basic needs?  The need is so great. 
          But the disciples – that is us – don’t have very much.  In face of the great needs of the world, the divisions and hatreds and angers and bitter memories of grudges and hurts, the little we are seems not only insignificant, but useless.  We don’t have even enough for us.  All we have is five barley loves and two fish.  It is puny.
          As Andrew so obviously states, “but what good are these for so many?   Indeed, what good are these, the church gathered here as the body of Christ, for so many?  So many hurting people.  So much hunger.  So much thirst.  So much despair. 
          Look out over this congregation.  What good are these for so many?  We seem so insignificant, like those five barley loaves and two fish in the face of so much hurt and pain and anger and hatred in the world. 
          But Jesus shows us the way.  Just as Jesus took the five loaves and two fish, blessed them, broke them and distributed them, and they were more than enough.  And just as the bread and wine soon to be brought up here to the altar – really a small thing - will be blessed, broken, and shared with us will be so very much more than simple bread and wine but the true body and blood of Christ, so also we, taken up and blessed by Jesus, broken open out of selfishness, and shared with others in care, compassion and love, will be more than enough to satisfy all the many hungers of the world, hungers for respect, for acceptance, for love. 
          We come broken and divided:  we are men and women; we are old, middle aged and young; we are Republican, Democrat and Independent; we are white and black and brown; we are born Americans, Immigrants, and Citizens of other countries; we are straight and gay and confused; we are rich, middle class and poor; we are happy, sad and bored; we are saints, sinners and so-so Christians; we are all over the lot.
          But in Christ Jesus we become ONE.  We become what we receive at this Mass, bread for the world.  We are the sacrament of God’s love for the whole world.  God’s love is bounteous.  More than enough.  We must share it with the whole world. 

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