Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Thus says the LORD:
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. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Brothers and sisters:
What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. 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.” Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me, ” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. 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, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.
Can you imagine how Jesus felt when He heard that His cousin John was persecuted and beheaded? He must have felt distressed and lonely. And naturally, He would relate that to His own final path to Calvary. So,“He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by Himself.” (Matthew 14:13) Needing some quiet time to be with God, He wanted to pray and grief. However, the crowds, like sheep without a shepherd, after finding out His whereabouts, flocked to Him on foot. Filled with compassion, Jesus attended instead to their needs by curing their sick. Jesus must have spent a long time with the crowds, until it reached the evening.
Then Jesus' unexpected instruction to feed the crowds not only caught His disciples by surprise but also greatly challenged their faith. “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” (Matthew 14:16) Imagine what was in their minds when the disciples were commanded to help Jesus organize the huge crowds and had them sit down and wait to be fed. The disciples knew there was not enough food and just wanted to send people away to buy food for themselves. The disciples' hearts must be disturbed and perplexed. “How are we going to feed all the people with five loaves and two fishes?” Sounds familiar? “How am I able to survive/move on/advance with so little (money, possessions, education, power, etc.)?” In a similar way, Jesus also challenges us to trust in Him in all circumstances, because His love and grace is enough for us. We should build our security upon His providence and not on how much or little we possess.
Foreshadowing the institution of the Eucharist, and the taking, blessing, breaking and giving of His own body for the salvation of all people, this episode of feeding of the five thousand also highlights the unconditional love of God towards every human being. It is freely given, without price. Unlike the Final Judgment when Christ separates the good and the evil, here, there is no differentiation between the good and the evil, the rich and the poor. Everyone has equal access. “Everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and you that have no money, come, buy and eat! Come, buy wine and milk without money and without price.” (Isaiah 55:1) If we turn to God, we shall be filled and satisfied, without cost. Yet, we often focus not on Him, but on non-essential worldly things and possessions. It is like a slap in Jesus' face, causing Him great pain. “Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread, and your labour for that which does not satisfy?” (Isaiah 55:2)
The twelve baskets of fragments left over tells us that when we trust in Him, build an intimate relationship with Him, and share with others what we have, He will work miracles and be more generous to us than we can ever imagine. Jesus' Body and Blood, which symbolizes God's love is our ultimate nourishment and food. Through the Eucharist and the Holy Spirit, He wants to be with us always until the end of time.
St. Paul says, “I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor Angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” (Romans 8:38-39) With the same faith, let us all be faithful and hopeful. Fear not of the devastating state and the declining morals of the world, and all the challenges in our lives. By choosing to respond to God's love over other things, let us follow His prompt: “incline your ear, and come to me; listen, so that you may live. I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” (Isaiah 55:3)
Jesus is the true fountain of love and life. He has offered to us the best, His love and His own self, all without price. Do not turn Him away!