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Pastor's Letter 20200802 - 2 August 2020 The Messianic Banquet

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August 2nd, 2020

18th Sunday, Ordinary Time

A Message from Father Michael

Today’s Theme: “The Messianic Banquet”



…five loaves and two fishes are all that we have….”


Scripture Note


As we listen to today’s Gospel account (Matthew 14:13-21,) the miracle of the loaves and fishes is something we can understand only in retrospect. For Matthew and his readers, however, it recalled the Old Testament story of “manna in the desert(Exodus 16.)  Jesus became the “new Moses” Who feeds His people.  In this “feeding” they witnessed an anticipation of the Holy Eucharist.  The gestures and words of the Last Supper—“He took the bread…blessed it…broke it…and gave it to His disciples”—in  turn, anticipates the final “banquet” of the Kingdom.


Miracle of Generosity


Mother Teresa once told how she came across a Hindu family that hadn’t eaten for days.  Giving them a small quantity of rice, she observed the mother of the family immediately dividing it into two portions.  One portion she then took to the family who lived next door, who happened to be Moslems. 

Mother Teresa asked her, “How much will you have left over?  Isn’t it enough for just yourselves? 

The woman replied, “But they haven’t eaten for days, either.”

Generosity such as that is humbling. 


The miracle of the loaves and fishes could be called a miracle of generosity, too.  First of all, there is the marvelous generosity of the young boy who made the gift, making the miracle possible (ref: John 6:1-14.)  A “small thing,” in itself, but for the boy it was very “big,” in that it was all that he had.  It’s easy to give something that we won’t really miss, but when the gift is as desperately needed by the giver as the receiver, that is what true giving—true sacrifice—is all about. 


Then there is the marvelous generosity of Jesus.  Again, considering that reaching out is easy if it isn’t inconvenient, the difficulty is magnified when it is “sprung” on us at an awkward moment.  Then we must set aside our plans, forget about ourselves, and make a real sacrifice.  So, it was with Jesus.  Learning that His cousin, John, the Baptist, had just been murdered, He naturally would have sought some solace.  That was why He took His disciples to the far side of Lake Galilee.  Stepping out of the boat, He was confronted by a throng of people.  A lesser person might have sent them away, but instead, He was compassionate, giving Himself completely to them. 


Then, there was the sheer generosity of His response to the hunger of the people.  Not only did He feed them, but He saw to it that each one had as much as was wanted—even to the extent that twelve baskets of remnants remained afterward.  One can understand, then, why this might be termed a miracle of generosity.  Generosity isn’t always about “giving.”  Often, it refers to our giving ourselves, our time as well as our gifts.  Giving things might be comparatively easy, but not so giving of ourselves.  Before He gave Himself as food and drink in the Eucharist, Jesus gave Himself to people in so many other ways.


The feeding of the multitude is a treasured story, much appreciated by early Christians.  Today, at God’s table—in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass—we are nourished by the Word of God and the Bread of Life.  When all those people returned to their homes at the end of that day, they knew they had experienced the goodness and love of God.


A Modern Version of the Miracle


Mother Teresa is known to have fed as many as nine thousand people every day, in Calcutta.  But she couldn’t have done so without the generosity of many people around the world, and the assistance of her Little Sisters of the Poor and many lay helpers.  She recounts one way in which this miracle was possible:

“One day, a young couple came into their house and gave them a large sum of money.

Mother asked them: ‘Where did you get so much money?’

They replied, ‘We were married two days ago, but we decided not to have a wedding feast.  We wanted to give money to the poor—because we love each other, and wanted to start our married life with an act of sacrifice.’ ”

 Even more amazing was that these were two high-cast Hindus, who normally would have nothing to do with the poor.


Sometimes a small deed takes on an importance far beyond its actual value.  Today, there is a tendency for many to want to make a “big gesture,” and neglect the small ones.  In doing so, it might be thought that a small contribution is of no value.  In turn, then, many might be tempted to do nothing.  But the fact remains that even “crumbs” can make a “loaf,” when taken together.  Every good gift is important, and may trigger others to make similar offerings. 


Feeding the hungry is one of the Corporal Works of Mercy*, and something we could and should be able to do for ourselves.  But some “food” only God can give.  Concerned about more than simply feeding people’s “bodies,” Jesus wanted also to nourish their minds, their hearts and their spirits.  The people Jesus fed in that lonely place, so long ago, went home fully nourished.  They felt the care and love of God for His people.  The food was merely a symbol of the life that God wants us to have—life here, on earth, and eternal life with Him, in heaven. 

*Based on Jesus' doctrine, the corporal and spiritual works of mercy are a means of grace as good deeds; it is also a work of justice pleasing to God, to wit:

 The Corporal works of mercy include:

1.     To feed the hungry.

2.     To give water to the thirsty.

3.     To clothe the naked.

4.     To shelter the homeless.

5.     To visit the sick.

6.     To visit the imprisoned, or ransom the captive.

7.     To bury the dead.

The precept is an affirmative one, that is, it is of the sort which is always binding but not always operative, for lack of matter or occasion or fitting circumstances. In general, it may be said that the determination of its actual obligatory force in a given case depends largely on one's capacity. There are easily recognizable limitations which the precept undergoes in practice so far as the performance of the corporal works of mercy are concerned. Likewise, the law imposing spiritual works of mercy is subject in individual instances to important reservations. For example, some may require particular tact, prudence, or knowledge. Similarly, to instruct the ignorant, counsel the doubtful, and console the sorrowing is not always within the competency of everyone. However, to bear wrongs patiently, to forgive offences willingly, and to pray for the living and the dead, do not require some special array of gifts or talent for their observance.  --https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Works_of_mercy 


Nothing Can Separate Us from The Love of God


When “bad” things happen to us, especially when that are not of our own making, we might feel that God no longer loves us, or that He may have abandoned us.  But in today’s Second Reading,Paul spoke about it as “a love that never ends; a love from which nothing can separate us” (Romans 8:35-39.)  He tells us there is no need to feel that way.  In fact, our trials and tribulations can serve to bring us closer to God.  In and through them, we experience His love and care for us.


Paul had more than his share of troubles.  He was imprisoned and whipped—almost to the point of death.  Three times he was beaten with sticks; once he was stoned by a mob and left for dead; three times he was shipwrecked—spending a day and night adrift in the open sea; he traveled thousands of miles on foot—often narrowly escaping death at the hands of robbers; he knew hunger and thirst, cold and nakedness—to say nothing of his burden of worry and concern he carried of his love for all the Churches (ref: 2 Corinthians 11:16-33.)  Yet Paul says he overcame all those things through the power of God, Who loved him.  We know he is talking from experience when he talks about never being separated from God’s love. 


No one can deny that life is unpredictable.   We can be sad one day and happy the next; successful one day and a failure the next; healthy one day and deathly ill the next.  We can’t depend on “human” solutions for every difficulty.  (Many times in my life, I have discovered that only by prayerful meditation, with the help of the Holy Spirit, that God is always present—with me through “thick and thin.”)  Only God can give us a sense of love that is trustworthy—that never changes—and that no one can take from us. 


This is why frequent partaking of Holy Communion is so important.  Serving as a physical reminder of the oneness we can experience with our Creator, in the Holy Eucharist we “taste” the love of God.  As a result, the proof that we have experienced that love will be our willingness to love others.  We may be able to give only in small ways and small amounts.  However, from the little boy in the Gospel we see that something small can become substantial in the hands of the Lord.




The multiplication of the loaves and fishes happens every season in farms all over the world at sowing and harvest time.  Like Jesus’ miracle, this one, also is brought about by the power of God.  And just like Jesus needed the hands of His apostles to distribute bread and fish to the people, so we are needed to make our abundance available to the hungry. 


Throughout the world, today, many countries have a problem of their people “over-eating.”  Many others struggle with their people lacking anything at all to eat.  Today, we don’t need anyone to “multiply loaves and fishes” for us.  The food is “there.”  What is not always available are those with the willingness and the ability to share it….   


May God Richly Bless You!


“Not all of us can do great things.  But we can all do small things with great love.”

 Mother Teresa

In our current, pandemic culture, when only “virtual” worship services have been available to us, this has become a challenge for many of the faithful.  Then, too, it has always been difficult for members of Christian denominations who only offer communion occasionally, and then, for many, as a simple memorial, not as a sacrament.  One can only hope that soon, clearer minds will prevail, and we can once again resume congregational attendance—the original understanding of “Church.”  (As a response, St. Catalina Catholic Church, near me, in Tucson, has been offering “drive-in”  parking lot  Sunday Mass with “drive-by” Holy Communion.  Novel…but seemingly observant of restrictions while also effective….)

At the Table of Our God.docx

At the Table of Our God.mp3

To view a live stream of today's Liturgy of the Word, click here: https://youtu.be/4REp_ciLK2Q

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