Father Valan Arockiaswamy

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HOMILIES

Close Dear Audience,
For better understanding of the spiritual message behind this homily I kindly remind you to first read and contemplate the biblical texts before reading or listening to my preaching - a human reflection on the Word of God!

Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Year A)

Aug 6, 2017 Views 225 Listen 15 Downloads 0
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First Reading

A reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah (55:1-3)

Thus says the Lord: 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! Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Responsorial Psalm

Psalms of David (145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18)


(R) The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.

The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness. The Lord is good to all and compassionate toward all His words. (R)

The eyes of all look hopefully to you, and you give them their food in due season; you open your hand and satisfy the desire of every living thing. (R)

The Lord is just in all His ways and holy in all His works. The Lord is near to all who call upon Him, to all who call upon Him in truth. (R)

Second Reading

A reading from the Letter of Saint Paul to the Romans (8:35, 37-39)

Brothers and sisters: What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

(P) The word of the Lord.
(R) Thanks be to God.

Gospel

A reading from the Gospel according to Matthew (14:13-21)

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves." Jesus said to them, "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves." But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over - twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

(P) The Gospel of the Lord.
(R) Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

Homily

In the last three weeks, we read from the 13th chapter of the gospel of Matthew and meditated on Jesus' parables regarding the kingdom of God or the kingdom of heaven. Today, from the 14th chapter of the same gospel, we learn that, after telling the parables, Jesus went to his hometown Nazareth where He preached in the synagogue. However, the people took offense at His humble birth and refused to listen to what He had to say. He did not perform any miracles there because of their lack of faith.

Meanwhile, having heard about the death of His cousin, the prophet John the Baptist, He went away on a boat to a quiet place along the shore of Galilee. Already, a large crowd of people had gathered on the shore to hear Him preach or were hoping that He might cure them. When He saw them, He was moved with compassion for them, healed their sick, and then performed one of the most astounding miracles in His earthly ministry. He fed over five thousand people with five loaves of bread and two fish. The story has been narrated in all the four gospels. Notably, each writer has told the story in his own way, recording different elements and details about it.

Matthew writes that the place where Jesus had been teaching was remote, far from any town or village, and that it was already evening. The disciples thought it would be wise to let the people go before it got too dark so they could find food and lodging for the night. They begged Jesus to send the crowd away. But He calmly told them that there was no need for the people to go away, and that they could give them some food themselves. The disciples must have been surprised by Jesus' reply, having noted they had in hand only five loaves of bread and two fish.

Feeding such a large crowd with a small amount of food was certainly a humanly impossible challenge. Jesus surely knew the impossibility of the situation but He recognized the tremendous need of the people gathered before Him. Despite His desire to find solitude and rest after the death of John the Baptist, He felt compassion for the crowd, and He showed His compassion by healing and feeding them. Here, while Jesus was concerned about the needs of the crowd, the disciples were worried about the shortage of food or inadequate resources. However, when Jesus instructed them to bring whatever they had to him, they obeyed. Then, Jesus performed the great miracle of multiplying the food, and all 5000 men and their families ate and were filled. The leftover food filled 12 baskets.

There is something more in the story that we should take note of. That is, when the disciples had brought the "five loaves of bread and two fish" to Jesus, He could have simply waved His hand over it all and, in an instance, magically and mysteriously multiplied them. But instead, He went through a process that took time and, that involved total obedience to Him.

First, He directed the people to sit down on the grass so that they would be able to enjoy fellowship as they ate, and they would be able to see what he was going to do. Second, He took the loaves and the fish and, looking up to heaven, gave thanks to God for His provision-even if that provision seemed small and insignificant in human eyes. And third, He divided it up and distributed it through His disciples. He invited them to participate in the miracle even though they did not understand or anticipate it. As they distributed, the provision increasingly multiplied and, perhaps, also their sense of wonder and awe over Jesus' miracle magnified as well.

What lessons can we learn from this miracle?

  • We must not despair over the seemingly impossible tasks. When our challenges seem bigger than life, or when we simply don't know what we are going to do, we must remember that the Lord has permitted such situations to fall upon us. He already knows what He is going to do and what is best for us. Hence, let us rest assured that He is simply testing us, to see whether or not we will trust Him.
  • We must not busy ourselves wholly on our own concerns but rather fix our thoughts on Jesus' concerns. When faced with challenges and problems, we must seek first to identify what Jesus is concerned about. Because He is concerned about something far greater than our concerns which are often focussed on either seeking or obtaining guidance to overcome a difficult situation or some quick-fix solutions to our problems.

    God's plans are far greater than ours. His concern is for the total person. He focuses on true depth and long-term impact. He is more concerned about what we do with Him than for Him. He is concerned whether we trust Him in all things without doubt or hesitation in our faith; whether we fully and wholeheartedly surrender our entire life to Him; and whether we can surrender to His love and readily embrace God's will in our lives. The psalmist aptly expresses God's concern in Psalm 46, "Let go of your concerns. Then you will know that I am God. I rule the nations. I rule the earth", Psalm (46:10).

  • We must focus on God's promises rather on worldly problems. The important thing is never the problem itself. Problems are never a problem for Jesus Christ. The fact is, if we are God's children, then our problems are His problems. Therefore, the only thing we have to do is that we must bring them to Jesus. We must humbly bring our concerns to God in prayer and honestly speak to Him about our strengths and limitations, plus entrusting ourselves and all we have to Him that He might do as He wishes with them. Then, we must remember to thank Him in advance for the result that He will bring about. Once we bring them to Him, the impossible becomes possible for He is greater than all our problems and fears.
  • We must not rush God but wait patiently on His will and timing. Once we bring our challenges to Jesus, we must be patient with Him and with ourselves. Sometimes things might happen immediately after we turn things over to Him; or they might not. Sometimes they might be solved by Him the way we expected; or they might not. It's all up to God. A delay is not a denial from God, as the Prophet Habakkuk says, "These things I plan won't happen right away. Slowly, steadily, surely, the time approaches when the vision will be fulfilled. If it seems slow, do not despair, for these things will surely come to pass. Just be patient! They will not be overdue a single day!", Habakkuk (2:3)

It is a tremendous test to wait on Jesus after we have brought our struggles and challenges to Him. But Psalm (37:5) encourages us to "commit our way to the Lord, trust in Him, and He shall bring it to pass, and He can make what seems impossible possible".

(P) Amen.

God Bless You!

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