18th Sunday Year A - Homily 2

Homily 2 – 2008 

Of recent weeks we’ve had the parables of the Kingdom – the seed that produced 100-fold, the mustard seed that grew to become a tree with branches for a multitude of birds, leaven to make enough bread to feed a hundred hungry adults.  The unexpected can happen!  Today, we have a sort of parable of the Kingdom in action – a crowd of 5000 men and probably as many women, comfortably fed from five loaves of bread and two pieces of fish.  The unexpected can happen!

But not by magic.  Isaiah was wise to that – as we heard in today’s First Reading.  God wants to turn it on – plenty for all: bread, corn, wine, milk.  But it’s conditional - Isaiah has God saying: Listen! Listen to me! Pay attention! Come to me! Listen!  If we listen, what shall we hear?  What difference will it make?  Isaiah again: With you I will make an everlasting covenant.  It’s like God saying: Let’s get married!  It’s not a mystery to us – we’ve heard it before.  We heard it in the Second Reading taken from Paul’s Letter to the Romans: nothing can come between us and the love of Christ.  In case we didn’t hear it, he said it again: Nothing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

I think that the problem is that we don’t listen; we don’t pay attention; we don’t come near.  Perhaps, we’re not as silly as we look - perhaps, unconsciously, we’re scared.  If we really listened to God’s love, it would undermine many of the religious, pious games we get up to.  It would undermine our sense of being in control, our ego, and we don’t trust ourselves to be out of control, and, perhaps, we don’t trust God: He’ll give us a bit of rope, maybe, but eventually he’ll get us.  So we often go through life yearning to love and to be loved, but never quite game enough to believe it – to believe in totally unconditional, unearned, love.

Needing to feel in control somehow, needing to feel safe, we draw our boundaries; we build our walls around ourselves; we become selective.  Everyone else does the same, and we come to define our identity by our differences; and differences become important.  The more insecure we are, the more we need the differences …  and our world becomes a world divided – us and them; and God’s Kingdom gets put up on the shelf – until everyone else becomes like me!  If only…!

Jesus struggled.  To believe all the time in the possibility of the Kingdom can be difficult.  Today’s Gospel started by saying that: when Jesus heard the news of John the Baptist’s death, he withdrew by boat to a lonely place.  Perhaps, he brought a sense of loneliness with him, deep in his own heart.  A great man assassinated by an insecure, power-hungry, tyrant.  A man who had been his mentor for a while, who perhaps had been instrumental in discovering his own vocation.  Jesus needed time and space to process the pain.

The world is frightened of God’s Kingdom – it seems too different, too risky, too unfamiliar, too unsettling.  Better to protect ourselves behind our walls, better to go on killing, if that’s what it takes, killing especially the prophets.  But the world does not count on resurrection.  We do.