18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Readings: Is 55:1-3; Rom 8:35,37-39; Matt 14:13-21
Thirsty; floating over drinkable water; squeezing a canvas for drops of moisture; spirititual thirst; “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 and were so thirsty that they were squeezing moisture from 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 on 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. At World Youth Day in Sydney, Australia in 2008, Pope Benedict XVI spoke about this spiritual thirst. Addressing a crowd of a half million youth and young adults 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 thirst for: love that endures, opportunity to share gifts, unity based on truth and 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, secular society offers choice, novelty and subjective experience. Those things are not bad in themselves, but to stop there is like squeezing out moisture from a canvas while floating over immense drinkable water! In the first reading from Isaiah the Lord invites us: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk! Nowhere does such a world of free lunch exist except what God offers us. Paul in the Second Reading, convinced of such a generous God, says that nothing could come between us and the love of Christ, even if we are troubled or worried, being persecuted, threatened or even attacked.
In the gospel, Jesus feeds crowds of about 5,000, not counting women and children. The disciples want Jesus to send the crowds away, but Jesus challenges the disciples to give them something to eat. When the disciples say that they have nothing with them except for five loaves and a couple of fish, Jesus asks them to bring the loaves and the 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.” Come and eat for free! The multiplication of loaves points to God who really cares about his people; who gives enough and more for everybody. Therefore do not starve while there is plenty of food for all! The readings remind us of the story of the sailors floating over an ocean of drinkable water just under their boat. And what is that ocean of living water? What is the free lunch? The pope answers these questions in a single word: Jesus. Let me sum up in three point. 1) Only in Jesus and his Holy Spirit can we find the goodness, beauty and truth we search for. 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. 3) The source of fresh waters is right here inviting us to come and eat and drink at every Eucharistic celebration. “Come to the water!” Come and eat; come and drink.
©2011 John S. Mbinda
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