Here is my homily for the weekend. God bless all!
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B
July 25, 2021
2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15
I asked my wife what I should preach this weekend, given the readings we have. She said, “People are hungry. Feed them!” Interesting! It was the message of Elisha the prophet in the first reading when he said, “Give it to the people to eat.” It was the message of Jesus in the Gospel when he fed the five thousand that day.
Yes, people are hungry. Feed them!
Yes, we are hungry, hungry for food that will truly nourish not only our bodies in this world but also our souls in preparation for eternity.
Do we want a little or a lot of this food? Do we want a little or a lot of what is truly good for us, physically, and most especially spiritually?
The answer is: we want and need a lot.
“Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough” we heard Philip say to Jesus. A year’s worth of work on our part, in other words, would not suffice to satisfy our hunger, our spiritual hunger, for the food that brings eternal life. Our own efforts will never be enough, but united with the power of God, we will feed thousands.
Yes, 200 days wages … a year’s worth of work. One of the lessons I learned easily from my father was the lesson of hard work. Dad worked very hard to feed our family. Dad taught me that if I were to have a family, I would need to work hard and long to feed them. He taught me this by example. My mom did the same, as did all my uncles, my grandmother, and all our neighbors. Hard work was an essential. It was a part of our culture. My brother and I would get up every morning before six o’clock to go outside to care for the 140 or so head of cattle that needed feed and water before we caught the bus at 7:10 for school, year around we did it before school and after school. Our summers were filled with farm work: Rock picking, baling hay, hoeing beans, tending the garden, trapping gophers. Dad’s advice was good advice. He taught us well, and he taught us young. Work hard to feed your family. As I said, it was a lesson I learned easily, and it has served me well. I have tried honoring him with my work for my family.
The more difficult lesson for me has always been what the readings today teach, namely, that hard work alone may be sufficient to feed my family’s bodies, but it is not sufficient to satisfy their spiritual hunger. To satisfy that hunger, I must rely on God’s benevolence, His abundance, His providence. I am so utterly dependent on God if I am to satisfy that kind of hunger in the people entrusted to me.
I can supply the five barley loaves and two fish, and I must, but God supplies the rest. I can give them a taste; God alone can fill their spiritual hunger.
It is hard to believe and trust that God will provide. We’d rather prove ourselves… or should I say approve of ourselves…. through hard work alone. The problem is, if we only rely on our own efforts, everyone only gets only a little, if any at all. There never seems to be enough to go around when we rely solely on our own hard work.
Yes, God’s grace is needed, and my cooperation with that grace is a necessity. We must work with God and not against him. He’s got the plan, and we must implement it. We must distribute the food — that is our job — and it is hard work, but God’s grace provides the food that we distribute. Both grace from God and hard work from us are needed. Feeding five thousand people is not easy.
Think of this so as not to become exhausted in the effort: It is in God’s very nature to give, and to give in abundance. He is the giver of all good gifts. He never takes back his gifts. He sustains and multiplies them. God is not stingy. He is lavish. He is not fickle. He is trustworthy. He doesn’t demand we pay him back, only that we are faithful and that the fragments be collected and not be wasted, so others also may be fed. God gives his gifts, his food, freely and abundantly. We distribute them.
Every moment he gives us life.
Every moment he sustains us.
Every moment he gives thought to us, knows us, and is aware of our needs.
Every moment he gives us what we need, even if we do not recognize it
The people are hungry. Feed them! Two hundred days’ wages of food will not be enough to satisfy them, but five barley loaves and two fish will. We are the loaves and fish to be given. This we can provide. God is the one who satisfies. God gives to us, and we are to give it to the people who are hungry for the bread that sustains them into life eternal.
May God be praised!