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Friday, 31 July 2020

18th Sunday Year A 2020

 18th. Sunday, Year (A)
(Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21)

In the ancient world of the Gospel’s beginning Christians were mocked by the learning of Athens and persecuted by the power of Rome for proclaiming a unique God Who having taken on human flesh, lived, died, and rose again for our salvation.  And still today, Christians and above all Catholics, are mocked and reviled, rejected and persecuted more than any other religious body, for proclaiming this Jesus as the Way, the Truth and the Life for human beings, whereas so many of the wise ones of this world still repeat the question of Pilate, ‘What is Truth?’, and so many non-believers hate a God Who warns that a life of self-will and pride, pleasure and plenty, will ultimately lead to death and even damnation.

In Isaiah’s time, as you heard in the first reading, things were much the same: the success many people looked for was that of having a life of rich fare, lands, flocks, and houses to boast of, whilst worship of the most popular god from the local pantheon was the obvious way to walk
 together with plenty of companions of easy persuasion rather than the disciplined way of obedience in response the Israel’s one and only God.

What did Isaiah proclaim in the name of the God of Israel:

Isaiah spoke in the name of the God of Israel Whom no man could ever see and live; a God unseen indeed but not unknown, since He had been active in Israel’s history for over a thousand years, and, indeed, it was He Who had made Israel into a nation.

In our second reading, however, this true but unseen God had taken on human flesh, becoming incarnate in Jesus Christ, and St. Paul offers for our aspirations not a pottage of worldly success or social popularity, but that supreme blessing for the human heart and mind, which is the abiding love of the God Who made us:

Nothing can come between us and the love of Christ …. Nothing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

St. Paul offers us there a shield, a helmet of salvation, for our present situation:

Even if we are troubled or worried, or being persecuted, or lacking food or clothes or being threatened or even attacked …. These are (but) trials through which we triumph, by the power of Him who loved us.

From that you can appreciate how the spirits that rule our modern world and technological society are increasingly hostile to Jesus: He claims a power they will not acknowledge because it is greater than anything they themselves can muster; a power He exercises, moreover, through those who appear to be nothing, because they fear, obey, and love, the God Who speaks to them in their conscience: Who teaches and guides their experience of life as disciples of Him Whose love for mankind triumphed over the torments of the Cross.

Today, our alien society and hostile world, along with their ages-old  proclamation of success and popularity as the only criteria for a worth-while life, also assert that there is no creator-god greater than modern mankind itself – armed with scientific knowledge and technological ability – able to fulfil modern aspirations now freed from all the taboos of religious fears and imagining: there is no God Who wants to speak with you personally; there is nothing special about you that cannot be seen and appreciated by society around you, and treated appropriately by socially approved ‘health-and-happiness experts’.

However, there is still something that makes us yet more mysterious and suspicious to all secular influences around us, for our Faith in God and Love for our Saviour are imbued with an unbounded Hope, and a resulting confidence which springs up within us from the Gospel proclamation you heard:

Jesus said to His disciples: There is no need for them (the hungry) to go: give them something to eat yourselves.  He took the five loaves and two fish, raised His eyes to heaven and said the blessing.  And breaking the loaves, He handed them to His disciples who gave them to the crowds.  They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps; remaining, twelve baskets full.  Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.

There, of course, we see foreshadowed the Holy Eucharist in Mother Church, that sacrificial offering and sacramental banquet we are now in the process of celebrating. 

Holy Mass is, indeed, the deepest and surest source of our Hope since here Jesus’ very sacrifice of Himself is our offering to the Father, and the Holy Spirit we receive in return is the Gift of the Father and bequest of the Son, through Whom God’s life and power are at work in Mother Church and in our individual lives.  The sacramental Gift we receive is a power that can easily transcend our personal weakness, and cannot be thwarted even by our sinfulness, because the Spirit’s Personal mission is to raise up children of Mother Church who will not bend the knee to Satan, children whose Faith, Hope, and Love will allow Him to form them in the likeness of the Jesus Who said:

In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world.  (John 16:33)

So today, in the face of the world’s mockery Jesus calls us, as He did His Apostles in our Gospel reading to ‘give our needy world food yourselves',  that is, from your Catholic and Christian awareness, experience, understanding and love of Jesus in your contemporary lives, in fulfilment of the prophetic calling by Isaiah:

            Pay attention, come to me; listen, and your soul will live.

Have no part therefore, dear People of God, in the throng of lusty, easy-going companions enjoying life as they would going to some mega occasion, crowding to worship their popular idols who -- with microphone in their hands -- sway and gesticulate hoping to encourage you likewise to sway with them and thus imbibe yourselves and communicate to all around you the emotion that is driving those idols to caress the microphone they are holding so lovingly and the head of which needs to be brought ever nearer to their glittering and quivering lips or gaping throat!!

TURN ASIDE, Isaiah says, from such pseudo-emotion, so carefully stoked-up with the help of glaring lights and pulsating music, AND LISTEN to God Who seeks to speak with you in the depths of your heart, hearken to Him, Who alone can give you true fulfilment – not childish/devilish excitement, not  success  which consists  in nothing more than passing popularity or plentiful possessions -- but real life itself, soul-life, transcendent and eternal life, at peace with One far greater than your own needy self, with the One Who knows you through and through, and whose love is not emotional but simply a commitment of being totally FOR YOU which is far, far above, immeasurably better and beyond, what is earthly.

And now we come to the very essence of today’s Gospel for our modern times, for Jesus says to His present-day apostles, mere local people – not Pope or Bishops so strangely silent – but like the original yokels from Galilee as the high society of Jerusalem thought:

            Give them some food yourselves!

Yes, you who think you have nothing to give: ‘Bring that nothing, here to Me’.

What do you have, dear People of God here at Mass?  You do not know? 

Let me tell you:  You have the power to bear witness to Jesus, by the mere statement that you are a Catholic, a Christian, a believer who loves Jesus, who trusts Him, who hopes in Him for heavenly life to come.  Notice that the disciples had only five loaves and two fish for thousands of people, you need only witness to the fact that you believe Jesus, you love Him .... you don’t have to give an explanation, maybe you can’t, but that is not essential, bring what you have to Jesus, that is, I repeat, the FACT of your love for Him, your belief and hope in Him!

You can then leave it there, as did those apostles of old, Jesus took what they had and used it to do what only He could do.   Put your neck on the line and have confidence in Jesus, He wants only your witness, He does not expect you to give also an explanation for your belief, your love, your hope, He will call others to do just that.  Remember,

            It will not be you who speak but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.

Go in peace with God, dear People of God, when you leave this Church; and go also with a greater measure of confidence in your Catholic and Christian selves too.