Fr Noel's Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A
Many years ago, I vividly remember the tragic death of a niece. She was 24 years of age and was taking photos of the new bridge at midnight. She had placed her tripod on the railway line thinking that all the trains had stopped. In the midst of her photographing, a train came from behind her and killed her instantly. My sister, now 93, lives in Melbourne and her daughter’s birthday is next month. It is a day she can never forget. She had only two daughters. In an instant, she had lost half her family.
Today’s gospel begins with Jesus going off into a lonely place to grieve the death of his cousin, Jon the Baptist. But his time of grieving was cut short. A great crowd of people had followed him and he took pity on them because they were like sheep without a shepherd.
When Jesus had finished speaking to them, he saw that they were hungry. The disciples said to Jesus: Let them go and buy something to eat at the surrounding villages. This suggestion of sending them off to buy something was more than Jesus could stand. He recalled the extraordinary generosity of God as Isaiah said:
O, come to the water, you who are thirsty;
Though you have nothing, I bid you come.
Buy corn without money and eat,
And, at no cost, wine and milk.
He told his disciples to feed the people. This astonished them. How can we feed them with only five loaves and two fishes?
Jesus commanded them: Bring them to me.
Just as you give your contributions in this church today. So, Jesus is going to make these small contributions into a feast for a multitude. He raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. Then he broke the gifts and gave them to the disciples to distribute.
Here we see that the Eucharist is centre point of all creation. In the desert, God gave his people all that they needed and we know that the end of time we will all share in the banquet of eternal life. At the beginning God gave us all we need and he will continue to do this throughout all time.
But we must remain in the present moment and allow God to give his generous gifts. These gifts are not for us alone. They are to be shared with the hungry and the destitute. They are to be shared at this time in history with victims of fires, floods and Covid19 victims. This moment of time is the central point of all creation. What God did at the beginning; he will continue to do throughout all time. We remain in this present moment where God is eternally.
The final words of the story seem out of place: They fed 5000 men, not counting the women and children. Though it seems strange - and almost a put down – it really stresses the generosity of our God.
Nothing, Paul proclaims, yes, nothing - can come between us and the love of God which comes to us in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Noel Mansfield MSC