Reflections on the Readings for Sunday 31 July 2011
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21
In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus has just heard about the gratuitous and petty murder of his cousin and mentor, John the Baptist. He withdraws to mourn but the crowds follow him. He must have felt drained and disillusioned, yet when the crowds found him he has the resources of the heart to move beyond his own grief and respond to their needs. The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish makes manifest in the visible world this miracle of the spirit. The crowds experienced in Jesus the presence of the God described in Psalm 145, the God who is close to them, kind and compassionate, fulfilling their hopes and meeting their needs.
Where did Jesus find the resources to be able to meet the needs of the crowd when he himself was grieving? Jesus was rooted in the life and in the love of God his Father. We are also, at the centre of our being, rooted in and enveloped by the unconditional love of God in Christ. That is true, whether we know it or not. The extent to which it is our lived experience is the extent to which we are empowered to live out of God’s abundance, whatever life may throw at us.
I can recall a period of difficulty in my own life during which the affirmation “I am clearly led, I am generously provided for” often impressed itself upon me when I prayed. My external circumstances may not have testified to the truth of that, but I began to live with a glimmer of hope and expectation, to recognize the little gifts, to be alert and open to miracle. I wonder how many people ate the bread and fish that Jesus provided without recognizing the deeper gift that he offered them? The prophet issues an invitation that cuts across our expectation that life and happiness are for those who have the material and social means to claim them. They are gift. When we live with a mindset that we are worth what we earn, and that our social location determines our value, we strive for the wrong things, and what we get will not satisfy us. But when we live out of God’s unconditional and unlimited love, we give and receive life in abundance.