Homily. Eighteenth Sunday of the Year A 3rd August, 2014
Homily by Fr. Paul Kelly.
These are rather excellent readings, which coincide with my last weekend here with you as parish priest.
These reading remind us that in every age the Lord ensures that he feeds us with his Body and Blood; He nourishes us with his life-giving and transforming Word; He strengthens us with his grace; restores us with his mercy and ….(first and foremost!), He loves us as his own, as sons and daughters…….with a bond of love that simply can never be broken. Not even death, nor life, not distance nor time, nothing at all can separate us from God’s love. And then……. this gracious God sends us out as his family……his friends, his people, …….disciples and co-workers, to be an instrument of God’s nourishment and strength for others.
We give thanks to God, (this weekend and every weekend of our lives), for God’s bountiful love and generous care. For God knows our every true desire and thirst, and God seeks to satisfy our deepest needs, in his own wisdom and by his own mysterious ways which are not like human ways and thoughts.
With a deeply grateful heart and with thanksgiving for God’s gracious care, I am reminded of the many different ways God feeds his people. So many wonderful memories, so many significant moments in the lives of so many….. it can’t be put into words….. only treasured in my heart. My thoughts go back over the last ten years and the truly beautiful ways God has been at work in and through his church, and in the wider community – in the actions and attitudes of people of goodwill everywhere, whether they be Christian or whether they simply hold values which are completely consistent with God’s values. God has constantly worked in and through his people and through the many opportunities to love selflessly, that are found in every single day.
Jesus gives us his love (a love that nothing on earth can ever separate us from). And Jesus gives us the Eucharist, as the centre and source of the church’s life and mission. The word of God nourishes us and transforms us and challenges us. And it is such a joy to be at the service of the God’s sacraments, which are a special means by which God gives this nourishment to his people.
The readings today remind us about what it is all about…… Jesus! And gets to the heart of why Christ acted the way he did…. Because he truly wanted to open our eyes to the fact that we are all brothers and sisters in God’s family…. that all people everywhere are called to recognise each-other as brothers and sisters in Christ……..Christ who is generous with his time, his resources and his love. Christ who is the living, breathing expression of the bountiful, loving God. And this fills us with wonder and gratitude.
The first reading and the Gospel are connected today in speaking about eating. In the words of the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah: “Listen to me and you shall eat well!” There are not many parts of the Bible that are this blunt. “If you follow the Lord, you shall eat well.”
However, we know that it is not entirely accurate. So many people throughout history have been totally faithful to God and have nevertheless died of hunger. So what are we to make of these kinds of sayings? It would be great if anyone who actually was faithful to God would never have a problem with lack of food. We who live so many centuries later can understand that the promise is NOT only about this life, but about the Heavenly Kingdom, and the kind of food that sustains eternal life.
We can easily think of places around the world where good people are starving – because they are not getting the basic things of life that they desperately NEED. The things every human needs. There have been so many people who did believe with all their hearts—and still they died from hunger.
For those of us in the “developed countries” there is almost always plenty to eat. So, in a real sense it is true, God does provide the world as a whole with the things that are needed for life and sustenance. However, they are clearly not evenly distributed….. but God has given us the means to distribute more evenly… that is where it is up to us to make a difference…..!!!!! We nations who have plenty need to act to distribute. SO, in a real sense,… we could also say, adapting the words of Isaiah, “heed the Lord, and others will eat well… for we will share and provide what is needed, according to God’s will.” (and why? Because God loves them all as beloved children.. and we are brothers and sisters to them all).
For a huge percentage of people in the world, (one eighth of the whole world population)… there is not enough to eat. Can we comprehend a number like this… 800 million of our brothers and sisters in the world are starving. We need to ask ourselves what that might mean for us? Do we as developed nations… or even as individuals….help with the hunger in the world? Are we, (inspired by the Gospel), willing to eat a little less so that others might eat a little more? The answer is of course, yes… and much is already being done. Good news is that world starvation figures in many areas are decreasing, due to many efforts in science, medicine, food technologies and humanitarian aid efforts by so many groups and individuals…….But the figures (and the human tragedies behind those figures), are still alarmingly high. Surely practical action to help give food to the hungry IS helping to fulfil God’s will to give what is necessary to those who need… Surely when we do this, we are heeding God’s will so that all MAY eat. (We ALL truly hope and pray that everyone around the world is able to eat – and we take practical steps to ensure this may occur, which is God’s desire).
The disciples in this weekend’s gospel, come to Jesus to ask what they are going to do about meeting the needs of so many people.
Jesus tells them to do something about it themselves.
But, of course, they cannot achieve such a difficult job unless they stay close to Jesus and do what he tells them.
The gospel reminds us that, as followers of Jesus, we must always keep in mind the vision of Jesus: practical concern for people around us.
Jesus is so clear that he wants his followers to give food to those who don’t have any.
Jesus is also, (naturally) referring to spiritual food too…. Such as the Eucharist and also nourishment from God’s Word in Scripture too. And so, we ask ourselves whether we have sufficient spiritual food for the journey? We need to keep looking for the presence of God in our own personal lives and in our daily lives of contact with all others?
THERE IS MORE THAN STARVATION IN THE WORLD. People are finding themselves “starved” in so many different ways in this world. Even in this country there are people who are “starving” - not so much for food, but for spiritual nourishment…… starved of affection; starved of having a place to “belong,” ….starved of healthy self esteem and sense of dignity and respect. The list goes on… These needs for nourishment are a real need too.
Jesus is still at work in our lives and in the world; inspiring people of goodwill everywhere to respond with compassion and practical action to help the starving, the homeless, the sinner, the dispossessed, the ill.. and so many others in need.
The Gospel invites us to live as truly spiritual and practical men and women… in our present world. Brothers and sisters with all of humanity, acting in practical ways to nourish the physical, spiritual, intellectual, health and other needs in life.
Our Lord truly wants us to know that we are all, (everyone in the world), brothers and sisters in Christ, (wherever life’s paths lead us – whether we are near and far). If the world really and truly accepted this truth of being one big family…. the world would be better.. the world would change.. and be very different…… Let us ask God to open our hearts to His presence. May we know (always), His divine presence in every other person. And may our hearts always continue to be open and responsive as we find new and practical ways to answer Jesus’ instruction to his disciples. Daily, we come to understand more deeply that it is because we are all brothers and sister to everyone, that he bids us (in so many ways)……: “you give them something to eat yourselves.”
Well,…. I come to the end of my parish ministry here….….but I still remain forever your brother in Christ….. and you and I remain part of this wonderful catholic family …..including this archdiocese… so we are never really far apart…..
…. I would just like to again offer up sincere, heartfelt thanks for God’s many, rich, blessings received by us all over these last ten years here… and for God’s constant care from generation to generation… and I know that God’s blessings will continue here always…..
I bless and thank God for this parish, God’s people, the wonderful parish schools… the excellent work done (for God’s glory and honour) by so many parish groups and people… the wonderful work done also in and amongst the wider community around us…..
Thank you for “each and every” …..of the “countless acts of kindness, graciousness and love”… inspired by Christ’s wonderful gospel…
I will fondly remember you always.
And may God continue to bless you and the ministry of Fr George …..
….as you continue to foster the rich heritage of the Lord’s Gospel in this wonderful place….
and May God bless you and keep you always.
Saint Paul puts everything so perfectly and gets to the heart of things so well. And so I shall end with his excellent words on my lips:
From the letter of St Paul to the Philippians (1:1-7a, 9-11)
I thank my God whenever I think of you; and every time I pray for all of you, I pray with joy, remembering how you have helped spread the Good News from the day you first heard it right up to the present. I am quite certain that the One who began this good work in you will see that it is finished when the Day of Christ Jesus comes. You have a permanent place in my heart, and God knows how much I miss you all, loving you as Christ Jesus loves you. My prayer is that your love for each other may increase more and more and never stop improving your knowledge and deepening your perception so that you can always recognise what is best. This will help you to become pure and blameless, and prepare you for the Day of Christ, when you will reach the perfect goodness which Christ Jesus produces in us for the glory and praise of God.
FR. PAUL W. KELLY
Plus, Break Open the Word
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