August 3: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35,37-39; Matthew 14:13-21
“Come to the water.” The story is told about four sailors whose ship had sunk and were now adrift on a lifeboat on the Atlantic Ocean. They were near the equator when they sent an SOS signal and were so thirsty that they were squeezing moisture from the pieces of canvas on their small lifeboat. When rescuers finally responded to the SOS and arrived, the sailors were almost dying from dehydration. After reviving them, the rescuers informed the sailors that: while they were fighting for a few drops of moisture, they had actually been floating over drinkable water! They were near the Amazon River - a river so huge that it pushes fresh water far out into the ocean. They could have dipped a bucket off the side of their boat and drawn out drinkable water. We sometimes resemble the sailors on that lifeboat - thirsty, but unaware of a readily available source of fresh water. Pope Benedict XVI recently spoke about this at World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia. Addressing a crowd of a half million youth the pope said: "In so many of our societies, side by side with material prosperity, a spiritual desert is spreading: an interior emptiness, an unnamed fear, a quiet sense of despair. How many of our contemporaries have built broken and empty cisterns (cf. Jer 2:13) in a desperate search for meaning...?" In his address, the Pope identified the things we are thirsting for: love that endures, opportunity to share gifts, unity based on truth, communion that respects the freedom of the other person. That could be summed up in three words: goodness, beauty and truth. But, the Holy Father added that, instead of goodness, beauty and truth what our society offers is choice, novelty and subjective experience. Those things are not bad in themselves, but to stop there is like squeezing out moisture from the canvas while floating over immense drinkable water! The first reading from Isaiah tells us: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come!” Nowhere does such a world exist except what God offers us. Paul in the Second Reading is convinced that nothing could separate us from the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, being persecuted or lack food or clothes, or being threatened or even attacked. God is there close to us in his love made visible for us in Christ Jesus.
In the gospel, Jesus feeds the crowds who numbered about 5,000, not counting women and children. The disciples want Jesus to send the crowds away. But Jesus challenges the disciples to give the crowds something to eat. But the disciples say that they have nothing with them except for five loaves and a couple of fish. So Jesus asks them to bring the loaves and fish to him. Then, he took the food, blessed and broke them and gave them to the disciples to give to the people. “All ate and were satisfied.” The multiplication of loaves points to God who really cares about his people; who gives enough and more for everybody. The readings remind us of an ocean of drinkable water very near us. And what is that ocean of living water? The pope answers in a single word: Jesus. So the message is twofold: 1) Only in Jesus and his Holy Spirit can we find the goodness, beauty and truth we desire. Only Jesus can give love that endures, and freedom that respects others. 2) The readings help us to discover the abundant waters and food that Jesus offers us in the Sacraments. Come to Jesus! “Come to the water.”
©2008 John M. Mbinda