July 26, 2009
ORDINARY 17 (B)
Where can we buy enough food for them to eat? – John 6: 5
A rhetorical question, to be sure. The straightforward answer is that one cannot, if one is on the purely material level as Philip is. However, our Lord’s purpose is to stretch the disciples’ imaginations, to expand their horizons, to include the spiritual dimension of reality.
Thinking limited to the merely physical dimension of things can only do division: It divides the 5 barley loaves & 2 fish into 5 thousand people & panics. It is impossible! Spiritual consciousness, on the other hand, works by multiplication. It is only by giving away that growth occurs. To the materialist, giving away means diminishment, loss. To the spiritual minded, it means a process of expansion leading to the sacred. To give away money means that one has more & the other less than before. But when one gives of oneself as in teaching, both are richer than before.
Such a large number of people had put their lives on hold to hear Jesus because they wanted something much more than flour & water. They needed the divine (the food that will never let them hunger again & the drink that will never let them thirst again) & Jesus recognized that. They needed their souls restored, & that can happen only when the divine & human meet. The stakes were much higher than the disciples imagined.
So it is with us. The Church has always viewed this Gospel episode as having Eucharistic overtones, & rightly so. When we come to Mass, what are our expectations? Getting a taste of bread & wine or perhaps enough inspiration to get us through the difficulties of the coming week? If so, we are selling ourselves short. Our Lord wants us to have nothing less than Himself, & since the Trinity is a package deal, the other two Persons as well.
On the surface, such a prospect might well be intimidating. After all, the Divine can be dangerous. But the startling thing is that throughout Scripture, whenever mere humans realize they are in the presence of the Mysterium Tremendum, the tremendous mystery that is God, the message of God has always been, “Be not afraid!” God reaches out to us, not to judge or squash us, but to incorporate us into His family, that we might become children of God.
God wants us to have life, not death, & that in itself is awesome. He has gone more than half-way to make up for our deficiencies with His grace. If we find ourselves on the outside looking in, if we have not experienced such grace, the problem is ours, not God’s.
The experience of His grace should be humbling, not intimidating. Above all, it should make us grateful for such generosity & love, enough that we should become God-like in that respect ourselves. AMEN!