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.
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.
Gospel Cycle Cycle A
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.
The first reading and the Gospel are connected today in speaking about eating. All of us should love the words of the first reading, from the Prophet Isaiah: Heed me and you shall eat well! It is difficult to imagine another part of our Bible that is this blunt. If you follow the Lord, you shall eat well.
On the other hand, we also know that it is not entirely true. So many people have been totally faithful to God and have died of hunger. So what are we to make of these kinds of sayings? We have to know that the Bible is speaking about eternal life and not just about this life. For sure, the person who wrote this part of the book of the Prophet Isaiah really thought that anyone who actually was faithful to God would never have a problem with eating in this life. We who live so many centuries later can understand that the promise is NOT about this life, but about living for ever and the kind of food that sustains eternal life.
All we need do is think of Burundi or Rwanda or Zimbabwe or even of the European nations during the Second World War. There were so many people who did believe with all their hearts—and they died from hunger.
Today we must recognize and strongly uphold that our Scriptures are really aimed at the life in the world to come and not about this life. The food we need to eat is the food of the Eucharist, the food of the teaching of Jesus, the food given to us as spiritual people. Of course I want to live in this life as well, but so many of us are beginning to think like many of the people in our world that this life is the only life. Our whole tradition affirms that what we really want is eternal life, life in God, life in Jesus Christ.
For those of us in the so-called “developed countries” there is almost always plenty to eat. For a huge percentage of people in the world, there is not enough to eat. We need to ask ourselves what that might mean for us? Do we help at all with the hunger in the world? Are we willing to eat a little less so that others might eat a little more? These are questions that those of us who follow Christ need to ask ourselves. Jesus is so clear in the Gospel that he wants his followers to give food to those who don’t have any.
And then we need to ask ourselves whether we have spiritual food for the journey? Are we really living spiritual lives? Do we look for the presence of God in our own personal lives and in our daily lives of contact with others?
Always the Gospel is there not to condemn us, but to invite us to live as truly spiritual women and men in our present world. Let us ask God to open our hearts today to His presence. May we know His divine presence in every other person. And may our hearts be alive in the Lord.