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Eighteenth Sunday – Year A – Ordinary Time
Readings: Isa 55:1-3; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Mt 14:13-21
1/ Reading I: RSV Isaiah 55:1 “Ho, everyone who thirsts, come to the waters; and he who has no money, come, buy and eat! Come! buy wine and milk without money and without price. 2 Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread; and your labor for that which does not satisfy? Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good, and delight yourselves in fatness. 3 Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.”
2/ Reading II: RSV Romans 8:35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written, “For thy sake we are being killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.” 37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
3/ Gospel: RSV Matthew 14:13 Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. 14 As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. 15 When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” 16 Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” 17 They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” 18 And he said, “Bring them here to me.” 19 Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. 20 And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. 21 And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
I. THEME: God’s immense love for us
There is a mother who had eleven children. When she had the first boy, she prayed God for her son to finish high school. To her, such degree is more than enough for her son. Later, when she was reunited with her son in the US and attended the graduated ceremony of her son’s master degree, she remembered her wish long time ago and offered to God this prayer loudly with tears, “O my God! How generous you are! I only asked you for him the diploma; but you gave him the bachelor; and now you also give him the master degree. How so kindly you are!”
To know how generous God is to us, we need to count all blessings which God has bestowed on us from our birth. To count God’s graces, we need to have a good memory so that we shall not forget what He has done for us. It is extremely useful for us, our family and community to sit down and counting God’s graces for us often.
Through all three readings today, the Church would like to remind her faithful to remember what God has done for them. In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah, after foretold all tribulations which God’s Suffering Servant must endure in the Fourth Song (52:13-53:12), declared the results which the Suffering Servant shall bring for his people in chapters 54 and 55. Today passage contains three first verses of chapter 55. In the second reading, St. Paul declared: If the faithful ascertain what Christ has done for them, there is no power in this world can separate them from Christ’s love. In the Gospel, Matthew’s passage partly fulfilled the Isaiah’s prophecy. Christ had compassion for people because they were wandering as sheep without a shepherd; and he performed the Multiplication of the Loaves miracle to feed five thousand men from the five loaves of barley and the two small fish.
1/ Reading I: God invites people to come to Him to be fed.
1.1/ God feeds His people free-of-charge: This is the main idea right in the first verse. The prophet invites people, whether they have money or not, to come; because all what they need, not only water but also milk and wine, God shall give to them free-of-charge. Milk is needed for nutrition and wine shall cheer people up. Why does God give them for free? This is only due to God’s generosity or is paid ahead by the Suffering Servant’s merit.
1.2/ People must know how to differentiate good from bad food: Not all food are good for people, but only those who are compatible with their body’s need. If they use the incomparable food, they can be died or sick. The prophet knew there are many people who “spend their money for that which is not bread; and their labor for that which does not satisfy.” God’s food, though free-of-charge, but “is good, and delight yourselves in fatness,” and especially, “your soul may live.” Who in this life knows what shall benefit people more than the One who creates people?
The most important thing is that people must pay a special attention to God’s teaching. The prophet highlighted this by using the key words: “Hearken diligently to me… Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live.” God knows the Old Covenant which He established with Moses on Mount Sinai isn’t enough to bring salvation for people; so He promised, “I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David.” All these things God has done because He so loved His people.
2/ Reading II: People should respond to God’s love.
2.1/ People must feel God’s love for them before they can return their love for Him: Today responsorial psalm repeats God’s generosity, “”
When God opens His hand, He gives to everybody, the good and the wicked, the gratitude and the ingratitude; as He calls all people to imitate His goodness, “So that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Mt 5:45). However, if people recognize what God have done, they shall appreciate and praise God and shall find all possible ways to return God’s graces. St. Paul certainly recognized God’s love for him so though he suffered tribulation, distress, persecution, famine, nakedness, peril, and sword, he still declared “Nothing shall be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” He knew that even he was unjustly suffered, God’s love is always with him; these injustices shall purify him and complete God’s work of salvation in him.
2.2/ There are many people’s benefits when they respond to God’s love: If people don’t recognize what God has done for them, they shall be ingratitude and blame on God forever. The Preface of the Weekdays IV reminds us the truth, “You (God) has no need of our praise, yet our desire to thank you is itself your gift. Our prayer of thanksgiving adds nothing to your greatness, but makes us grow in your grace, through Jesus Christ our Lord.” In reality, God bestows grace before we even ask because He knows what we need; but we need to thank God so that our gratitude helps us to have a firm faith in Him when we are tested. We must pass through many sufferings as St. Paul in our life. If we aren’t trained, we shall easily blame on ourselves, others and even God. If we lose our faith, how can we be worthy to inherit God’s eternal life?
St. Paul deeply felt Christ’s love for him when he was still a sinner on the way to Damascus to persecute the Christians. This conviction helped him to confess his firm faith and love in Christ, “For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
3/ Gospel: Christ had compassion for people because they are like sheep without a shepherd.
The Gospel according to St. Matthew paid a special attention to the fulfillment of the Old Testament; a typical example can be found in today passage. Jesus had compassion for people so he taught them, healed their sick and fed them free-of-charge by multiplication of the five loaves and the two fish in the desert as the prophet Isaiah foretold in the first reading. The passage introduced, “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns.”
Like Isaiah, Matthew was attentive to the verb “to hear.” When the crowd heard about Christ, though he withdrew to a lonely place, they still make an effort to find him. In a deserted place, the number of men is five thousands. This is a special number in a desert. They were looking for him because they knew only him can meet their deepest thirst. Let go through all human thirsts in today passage.
3.1/ Christ educated people: The verse after the Alleluia reminds us, “People live not only by bread alone, but also by every word from God.” We know that it is very rare to find an event which is reported by all four evangelists as the miracle of Multiplication of the Loaves to feed the five thousand in today Gospel (Mt 14:13-21; Mk 6:32-44; Lk 9:10b-17; Jn 6:1-15). The Synoptic Gospels pay attention to the miracle more than Jesus’ teaching. This isn’t meant Jesus didn’t teach the people because according to the passage, people must follow Jesus from the morning to the evening and Jesus taught them in this interval time. The Fourth Gospel paid a special attention to Jesus’ teaching after the miracle, because most of chapter six is Jesus’ teaching on the imperishable foods which are God’s word and the sacrament of the Eucharist.
3.2/ Christ healed many of their sick: Human beings are surrounded by all kinds of sickness, dangers and sins; so they wanted to be healed. Many times in the Gospels, the evangelists reported that Jesus had compassion when he saw their sufferings, and they healed them from all kinds of sickness.
3.3/ Christ fed people from the five loaves and two fish: “When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.””
Many people ridicule religion that it can’t feed people. Jesus showed them he can satisfy people’s need for food in the desert. He cares for both human material and spiritual need.
3.4/ Christ instituted the Eucharist to nourish the faithful all their life: The Synoptic Gospels didn’t mention the sacrament of the Eucharist this moment, but all Jesus’s acts such as: “taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds,” remind people of what Jesus did in the Last Supper when he instituted the Eucharist. The Fourth Gospel didn’t report this event in the Last Supper, but in chapter six, John reported Jesus’ long discourse about the importance of this sacrament, “For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed. He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him. As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me” (Jn 6:55-57).
As the body needs bread and water, the human soul also needs to be fed by Jesus’ body and blood. If people don’t eat bread and drink water, they shall die. Similarly, if their souls aren’t nourished by Jesus’ body and blood, they shall also be died. However, the spiritual sicknesses and death aren’t easily recognized, but all the signs such as: anger, separation, discord and jealousy indicate their souls are sick; and if they can’t be healed on time, they shall end up in death.
God cares for people, not only to provide them with material food through His creation, but also with the spiritual food through Jesus’ redemption. Christ promises us that whoever hear and obey his words, shall have their physical, spiritual and eternal life.
III. APPLICATION IN LIFE:
– It isn’t easy for us to recognize God’s blessings and others’ good works which they have done for us but it is easy to forget about them.
– We are easily chasing after physical food but lazy to look for spiritual food, such as: God’s word and the Eucharist.
– When we recognize God’s love for us, it shall lead us to have a strong faith as St. Paul: There is none who loves us as God in this world; and we shall overcome all obstacles of life to faithfully believe and to love God forever.