18th Sunday Ordinary Time – Cycle A
Is 55:1-3 Psalm Ps 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18 Rom 8:35, 37-39 Mt 14:13-21
This past week, my wife went and saw the new X-Files movie, and came back and commented to me that it had a very negative portrayal of the Church.
Hollywood gives the Church a bad rap
This movie (the X-Files) gives a typical Hollywood portrayal of the Catholic Church. Without giving away the plot it features two men, one is a former Catholic priest and convicted pedophile who has super-natural visions, the other is a Catholic Priest who opposes a boy from receiving a non-descript stem-cell treatment that the Church considers abhorrent. The movie embroils these characters into conflict with the Church and concludes that the teachings of the church are wrong, and ought to be ignored.
Does this really reflect our family?
In a certain way, I think that this movie is an attempt by the producers and distributors to portray the Church and her teachings as irrelevant to modern day issues, backwards, messed up and mean. It leads us to ask the question - is this an accurate portrayal of the Catholic Church? Is this how our community, our family really is?
Do we answer by making our own movie?
How are we as Christians to answer these serious accusations in the world today? We could on one hand, collect up all of our monies, and go and hire an great director and pay them to make a movie about the Catholic Church that portrayed her in a positive light – but would that be an effective use of our resources? All in favor of a second collection to raise money to make a movie to counter this accusation please raise your hands.
If not then how?
Don’t panic! I think that Jesus wouldn’t raise his hand either. Christ doesn’t want us sitting on our backsides in the pews, He calls us to answer these accusations by being witnesses to the Gospel. But where does the rubber meet the road? How do we do this?
The readings today give us some hints on how we as Christians, disciples of Jesus are to respond to this movie, and all other accusations against the Church. Let’s go through them one at a time.
All who are thirsty come to the water
Isaiah the Prophet invites all who are thirsty to come to the water. Are we thirsty? What are we thirsty for? We are thirsty for the same thing that everyone else in the world is thirsty for – we are thirsty for love;
- not the kind of love we might have for ice cream or pizza;
- not the kind of love that we experience from our brothers and sisters;
- not the kind of love that we experience for our parents or our children;
- not the kind of love that we have for our husbands or wives.
We thirst for a love that is greater than all of these loves – we are thirst for the Love of God. We thirst to know how special we are in His eyes.
All who have no money…
Isaiah goes on to invite those “who have no money to come receive grain and eat. Come without paying, and without cost”. If we were to literally engage with this passage of scripture we might dismiss it by saying that we have food in the pantry at home, or some money in the bank. What then is the money that Isaiah is referring to? The money that Isaiah is speaking of is the money of love – our ability to show love. He describes us as having no money, because we learn to love in response to our experience of being loved. Isaiah is describing our ability to love when compared to God’s ability of love. God has an infinite ability to love, we are very limited, and so we are poor in comparison to God. It is God who invites us into a relationship of love, to receive His love – to receive from Him freely.
Love illumines our heart – it reveals in us selfishness
Every encounter with the love of God illuminates our hearts. It is in the brightness of God’s love that we are confronted with the question – “Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?” Where is my love directed? Where do I spend my time? My treasures? My talents? How does my expenditure of time relate to the love that I seek?
Sneaking out of town - imagine Jesus’ day in the Gospel
Have you ever wondered why it took Jesus all day to cure the sick. When I read this Gospel, I imagined that he got up early in the morning, grabbed the disciples and snuck out of town, only to find that when they landed the boat the crowds had followed him. On landing with his disciples, he had pity on the crowds and so he spent his day healing them. This gives us a glimpse of what God’s Love is like. Jesus could have healed them all instantly, but rather he spent the day healing them, by entering into relationship with them, showing them what the Love of God is like – it is relational. God’s love is relational, and when we experience it we are healed!
We are the disciples
Whenever we read scripture about the disciples, we need to pay special attention to them, because we too are disciples of Jesus, and we are called to imitate their actions in our own lives. The disciples come to Jesus and ask him to take care of a problem – feeding the crowd. They even have a suggestion on how God ought to solve this problem that they have (send them away). How many times have we taken our problems to God with a suggested solution?
Christ calls us to action by placing our gifts at His service
Jesus answers them in much the same way that He answers us – He challenges them to action. He says “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” To which they respond that they don’t have enough – five loaves and two fishes. This is where the Gospel and the reading from Isaiah fit together beautifully. We come to God because we are poor in our ability to Love, but if we allow Him, he will take our meager gifts and multiply them a thousand fold. What would the world be like if we placed all our relationships before Christ like the disciples did in today’s Gospel? How much love would we witness to our wives and husbands, our children and parents, our brothers and sisters, our neighbors and friends and enemies?
Christianity is Fire – Christians are Arsonists
A 19th century philosopher once described Christianity as fire, and true Christians as arsonists.
The Fire of Christianity is Love. Love is the key to being united with God. When we allow the love of Christ to dwell in our hearts then our temptation to sin falls away, we live as St. Paul says – without anything separating us from the Love of Christ.
We are called to be like the disciples in the Gospel and place our meager gifts before God, so that He can take them and magnify their effect.
Love is our capacity to hold heat? How hot or cold are our hearts?
John Chrysostum describes our love as the capacity of our hearts to hold heat. Do we allow the love that we experience here with the Eucharist to remain in our hearts throughout this week? Are we hot or cold? Does our heart retain the heat of Christ’s love in a way that is living and effective, that changes how we live our lives? Are we being arsonists?
How does our family answer the accusations of Hollywood? - By sharing the fire of Christ’s love!
When we allow this fire of Christ’s love to penetrate our hearts we become a witness of the Gospel to our families, friends, neighbors and coworkers what true Christianity is about. When we do this in simple, practical ways by offering to mow the neighbors lawn, visiting the sick, those who are homebound or in prison, by holding the door for another, by taking care of the poor, the weak and the suffering. When we do one of these actions we spread the fire of God’s love into the world. This arson of Love is the anti-dote to the accusations made in the movie theater about the nature of Christianity and the Church. What fire is Christ calling you to spread this week?