18th Sunday in Ordinary Time -A
Gospel Reading: Mt 14:13-21
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.
Other Readings: Is 55:1-3; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18
REFLECTIONFOR the past three Sundays, the theme of the gospel readings focused inwardly—how we compare ourselves with the soil where the seeds of faith are being sowed; how we acknowledge our capacity to do good and evil just like the soil that produces both wheat and weeds; or what we consider treasures in our lives. On this 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, we are being directed to shift our focus from an inward looking, self-searching orientation to an outward looking, missionary one. Now, I wonder if anybody here ever used the phrase: “Prove It” to demand something from another person. I am not referring to the use of the phrase in a legal sense or as used in the courts but more on to prove the sincerity of something that has been said before.
For example, for all the couples here, when your husband or wife or boyfriend or girlfriend say “I Love You”, did you ever say prove it to get something from him or her? I know I did back when I was still in my teens—during my “naughty” years, and I should emphasise, long before I met my loving wife. “Prove It.” We sometimes say this because we want something more tangible; more concrete than just a pledge or a promise made in words.
In the gospel we heard that when Jesus “saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them.” But he did not stop there feeling pity for the people. Instead he started healing the sick. Furthermore, instead of sending the people away to get food as the disciples suggested to him he said: “There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.” What followed was the story about the feeding of the five thousand men, besides women and children, from five loaves of bread and two fish.
Yes, for us the feeding of the multitudes is just one of the many miracles Jesus performed during his Earthly ministry. But we must remember that miracles such as the multiplication of bread and fish must always be put into the context of Jesus’ true mission and its implication for us who are followers of Christ. He did not perform this miracle to impress or astonish the crowds but, as one theologian puts it, “to demonstrate God’s love for humanity in tangible ways.” God does not just dwell or is interested in our spiritual welfare. Through Jesus, God was able to demonstrate that He is truly the source of both spiritual and material nourishment. This is the same tangible love meeting concrete needs that the people of the Old Testament experienced. From the first reading the prophet Isaiah envisioned the Kingdom of God as an image of abundance being shared without any condition in the face of scarcity and need. In the words of Isaiah God is inviting: “Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty; though you have no money, come!” The action of Jesus in the gospel has a tremendous implication for us his followers. I mentioned before of the movement of the gospel readings from the last three Sundays from an inward-looking to this Sunday’s more outward and missionary orientation. It demonstrates the connection between prayer and action; self-reflection and missionary activity.
The gospel tells us that Jesus withdrew from the crowds to a lonely or deserted place. And we know that whenever Jesus does this it is prayer. Even when performing the miracle Jesus did not just zap the bread and fish to multiply them. Instead he prayed first to the Father in thanksgiving.
We are also encouraged to do the same thing. We must seek ways to connect our life of prayer to our daily lives. Or more precisely, Jesus wants that our prayer lives to lead to a missionary activity; witnessing the Good News that through Jesus God inaugurated His Kingdom in the here and now. Feeding the multitudes is miraculous. But we can also perform miracles not by multiplying bread and fish but by showing love, charity to our fellow human in our own little and simple ways. The gospel tells us that miracles are concrete ways to show God’s love. It is now our task as the church to continue performing God’s miracles. Imagine Jesus as a love one like our husbands or wives, our boyfriends or girlfriends, or our children. When we say: “I Love You”, “I will follow you” or “I will be your disciple” to him. How will we respond if he tells us: PROVE IT?