Theme I: There is a plan and we can improve upon it by fulfilling it
Every generation has prophets– those individuals young or old who speak God’s words to us.
They are not necessarily ordained or even Catholics. They are people who understand the purpose and the heart of life. They are genuine and they call us to hear and to listen to truth… God’s truth, unfiltered and not massaged to what we might want it to sound like.
When we turn a deaf ear to “the truth,” our personal lives run amok. We make a mess of our lives, and the poor decisions we will have made, have major consequences for our lives.
Thus, our first reading today gives us the Prophet Isaiah who tried to warn the people of Israel to get back on the right track: “Give a more authentic place in your life to God.” His pleading fell on deaf ears, so God let the people be taken into slavery. Babylon was Israel’s second worst moment after Egypt.
After the punishment they brought on themselves was over, the Prophet Isaiah accompanied them back to Jerusalem. Of course, they had to rebuild, but the Prophet Isaiah advised them to be careful once again — not to become materialistic or greedy — to keep everything in balance and perspective.
Isaiah heard God say, and he passed it on: “Come to me, listen, that you may have life.” God was inviting them to eat and drink a different kind of food. God wanted them to acknowledge His covenant with them and not be his children who never called, talked to him, said hello, or paid any attention to him.
After a few years of inspiration and desire to live as God wanted them, to be close and caring, they did it for about 200 years, and they became the subjects of Persia, Greece, Egypt, and Rome, because they replaced God with themselves.
The question remained and remains to this day: “why waste your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy?”
Much like anything we would manufacture, there is a plan for making and for operating. We are assembled and work according to God’s plan, otherwise we do not function very well and can possibly cease to function. Not even a president or dictator or puny human being can change the plan. The plan is the plan. The only way that we can improve the plan is by fulfilling it.
Theme II: We find true personal and communal security in a God of love who wants to share that love with each of us
Today’s second reading from St. Paul reminds us that there are many people and situations in our life that try to kill us, or dampen our spirits, or overcome us. “We conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us,” St. Paul wrote. St. Paul experienced a pandemic in the latter half of the first century, persecutions by mean-spirited religious people who repudiated the teachings of Jesus.
Today, we are experiencing the evil of white racism, the refusal to share at the expense of others, and the refusal of Black Lives Matter to let the situation continue as it has for centuries.
We will not find real security in our white privilege but only in the love of God that has come to us in Jesus Christ. Jesus suggests an open hand and not a clenched fist, an open mind and not a closed heart.
Theme III: Nothing is impossible with God. Miracles do not come from nothing. They come from people alert with love.
The gospel today reminds us that Jesus believed in miracles and that He invites us to do miracles with him out of the spirit of generosity. The gospel of Jesus, the wisdom of God his father, was something that moved people toward being more compassionate and to be less fearful of not having enough and to be more secure.
Today’s gospel contains one of Jesus’ epic challenges: “There is no need for them to go away” – all those thousands of people who had spent the day with Jesus, hanging on his every word. “Give them some food yourselves.”
I don’t think that Jesus produced food out of nowhere. He began with five loaves and two fish. Taking the five loaves and two fish, he told his disciples to give them to the crowds. How many hundreds of disciples were there? I think more than 12. I heard an explanation that makes a lot of sense. Sharing with each other began to catch on. All those folks who had packed some food along with them in the folds of their clothes, began to take all of it out to share. There was food left over, we are told. Everyone had enough. The wondermaking of Jesus is the wondermaking of reaching out to others, of helping others, of including others, of solving all social and moral and physical problems and issues together.
Jesus knew how to start an NGO (a non-governmental organization, a nonprofit, citizen-based group that sees a need and works to fill it).
To think that Jesus is some powerful dude who can pull loaves of bread out of a big black hat cheapens the honor and capacity of God’s power. God’ interest focuses on the capacities that we have to share life, to express love, to connect with others, to create our own NGOs– to share the abundance of life, to notice that we have five loaves and two fish. The question is how will we use them. Just for ourselves? “Give them some food yourselves” is a metaphor for how Jesus wants us to bless life.
Photo credit: Bread and photo by Stephanie Dib Perham