18th Sunday Year A - Homily 4

Homily 4 - 2020

St Matthew put today’s story within the context of Jesus’ taking “compassion on the crowd” and “healing the sick”. Who were these people who walked on foot for hours, over rough terrain, to hear Jesus? They don’t sound like the physically handicapped. More likely they were the unemployed and the underemployed — “five thousand men, to say nothing of the women and the children” who would have doubled the crowd — all poverty stricken, without hope of improvement, their self-esteem broken. Jesus’ transparent care penetrated deep into their spirits. He loved them, he respected them, and they knew it — and wholeness stirred inside them.

They were hungry. Jesus addressed the disciples, “You give them something to eat yourselves”. I am reminded of the many ordinary Australians who, after the summer bushfires, reached out to victims of the fires, bringing loads of hay for their traumatised stock, and giving their energy and time to reconstruct miles of burnt fences. I think of the volunteers here in Hamilton who have organised and distributed meals for those put out of work by the Covid-19 pandemic. I think of nurses and doctors, of staff of aged care facilities — risking their lives in order to care. The list goes on. Who benefitted most? Whose self-respect and self-esteem grew most? Givers or receivers — or both.

“Loaves" and "fish” — a low impact diet! And they shared it together, respectfully, leisurely. No one missed out. Not just physically nourishing, but spiritually healing. Finally, “they collected the scraps remaining”. Fascinating! Jesus obviously had a profound respect for the natural world created by his Father and intended for all. They left no mess.

Matthew shaped the story to connect deliberately with Eucharist: “he took the loaves, blessed God, broke the loaves and gave them to the crowds” — no one excluded. Does our Eucharist today repeat the same dynamic — a celebration of mutual respect, shared together, our care healing each other as well as our hurting selves, and situating us thoughtfully and responsibly within our wounded world? With Jesus right in the centre of it all!