18th Sunday Year A - Homily 1

Homily 1 - 2005

Today’s gospel is one of those we know so well.  Notice how Matthew consciously shapes the story: Jesus took the five loaves.. raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing.. and breaking the loaves .. he handed them to the disciples.  Jesus took, blessed God, broke, gave.  It reminds us of something else.  In today’s Eucharistic Prayer, I shall read: he took bread and gave you thanks and praise.  He broke the bread and gave it to his disciples...  The same four steps.  Matthew deliberately uses the same language because he wanted his own community (for whom he wrote his gospel), every time they gathered to celebrate Eucharist, to think also of the way that Jesus went on to tell his disciples: give the hungry crowds something to eat yourselves.

Why did Jesus feed the hungry?  Why does the St Vincent de Paul Society feed the hungry, clothe the naked, give shelter to the homeless (as another of Jesus’ parables will put it)?  (Why did so many of you respond so generously to the project of Fr Mick McKinnon in Peru?)  Because people are hungry, naked, homeless.

Was that really what Jesus was on about though, or was it only an incidental issue?  Let’s go back a step.  Why were people hungry, naked, homeless?  Was Galilee so poor that there wasn’t enough for everyone?  Hardly.  Galilee was the food bowl of the whole of Palestine.  Jesus wished to make a point.  

When the disciples shared, there was enough, and more than enough: twelve baskets full, in the story.  This brings us closer to what Jesus was on about – he wanted people to see the broader picture, and to live in line with that: To see that all people were loved equally by God - sons and daughters of a compassionate, generous and loving God.  To see more: if all were sons and daughters of God - a compassionate, loving and generous God - then they were brothers and sisters of each other, and, as responsive sons and daughters of such a God, they would treat each other with respect, justice and warm concern.  When people listen to God, tune their hearts in to God, and allow them to be changed, and then act accordingly, the result is superabundance - yes, of food, but also of joy, happiness, security and peace.  As God said in the first reading from Isaiah: Pay attention; come to me.  Listen, and your soul will live.

As we gather today, Jesus will take bread, bless it, break it and give it to us, and he will want us to remember our world where millions are hungry, naked and homeless... and he will say to us, as he said to those first disciples: Give them something to eat yourselves!  Can we afford it?  The disciples wondered that: All we have is five loaves and two fish! was their observation.  But they hadn’t taken into account the word of God.  Jesus simply said: Try it! Do it! Let your hearts be shaped not by checking out the economic rationalists but by listening to God.  Those in need in our world are also sons and daughters of God.  And so they are our brothers and sisters, wherever they are.  Remember the other occasion when someone asked Jesus: Who is my neighbour? and Jesus’ story of the Good Samaritan gave the answer that even our national enemies are!

It is not just question of whether the hungry will ever experience the Kingdom if “those who have” never learn to share.  It’s more.  Will those who have ever experience the Kingdom until they learn to see everyone as equally sons and daughters of God, loved by God as much as they are.  We shall begin to experience the Kingdom as we allow our hearts to become like the heart of God...

May today’s Eucharist be a truly happy Eucharist for each of us!