XVIII SUNDAY OF THE YEAR
isaiah 55:1-3; romans 8:35, 37-39; matthew 14:13-21
on a farm near maine, lloyd bachelder was pinned under a 3,000-pound tractor. hearing him scream, arthur hinkley, his friend, lifted the tractor with bare hands for lloyd to wriggle out. arthur’s compassion accomplished the unbelievable (cf. calvin miller, «rethinking suburban evangelism»).
we see such compassion in the readings of today.
the gospel opens with JESUS withdrawing to a lonely place after he hears of john’s beheading. but he has no time to be «by himself» for the crowds follow him. JESUS is faced with an unexpected demand on himself.
there are two usual responses to such a situation. one: i completely ignore such demands because they conflict with my plans/needs. two: if i’m one who cannot say «no», i will always put aside my plans and respond to the call… even when i can’t/don’t want to respond. i play the «martyr»; the result is eventual burnout/frustration. neither response is appropriate.
JESUS’ response? he «had compassion on them» and responded to their need. BUT it is important to note that in john’s version of this story, JESUS goes away after satiating the people’s hunger because he does not want to make them dependent!
sometimes, compassion is helping people by giving them resources and myself; at other moments, compassion is helping people find their own resources and themselves.
however, there is so much «hunger» for food, education, love… is it possible to satiate this hunger?
the first reading asks an important question: «why do you spend money for that which is not bread…?» if we use money for others’ basic needs, instead of spending on our wants and whims, we will help alleviate people’s hunger.
further, the disciples had «only five loaves and two fish». JESUS multiplies this «only five loaves and two fish» and it becomes enough to feed the multitude. the «great crowd,» the «lonely place» and the feeding with «bread» remind us of the way GOD fed his people in the desert with manna, and assure us that GOD still satisfies his people’s hunger through the messiah and his disciples.
today’s liturgy reassures us: GOD really cares for us; he can and will satisfy all our hungers. but he needs me to mediate his compassion.
am i ready to be compassionate… sharing my resources sometimes and helping people find their own resources at other moments? will i give my «five loaves and two fish» and allow the LORD to multiply them? am i willing to buy only what i need and to give the surplus so others can meet their needs?