I wrote two weeks ago
that this whole COVID Spring was finally getting to me. I'm feeling better this week, but it's up and down. We reflect on what 2020 has been so far (you may have forgotten some of these): Protests in Hong Kong, wildfires in Australia, Ukrainian flight crashing in Tehran, the UK withdraws from the European Union, Pakistan International Airlines flight crashes near Karachi, mass shooting in Nova Scotia, racism protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd, new Ebola cases reported in the DRC, Snowbird crash in BC, cyclone hits western India, earthquake in Mexico, landslide in Myanmar, floods in China, and over 12 million COVID-19 cases worldwide.
Sure there have been good news stories, but it's hard to focus on them.
How has your year been? How about last week? My week was really not bad at all (and sometimes I feel guilty about that). But I have to remember that there’s always someone in the world who is having a bad week.
Next Sunday's Gospel story (Matthew 14:13:21) is the only one that is found in all four Gospels. This year we read Matthew’s version, but it’s also found in Mark, Luke
, and John
and I've written about them. It’s a story that we’ve heard so often and that we know so well: Jesus feeds the 5000 – the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish (and half the time we say five fish and two loaves!), that we don’t really pay much attention when we hear it and so it's possible to miss some other parts of the story.
Matthew's telling of the story begins with Jesus not having a good week. He’s just found out that his cousin John the Baptist, who was in prison, has been beheaded by King Herod. Just before that, he was rejected in his own home town (Matthew 13:53-58)! So Jesus goes off to a deserted place by himself (Matthew 14:1-13). That’s what I want to do when I am having a bad day or I am feeling sad or have received bad news; I want to go off by myself – to pray, but also to be alone. I imagine that Jesus was feeling a bit sad but also a bit angry and maybe even a bit afraid because he knows that what happened to John will likely also happen to him.
And then the crowds show up. I don’t know about you, but when I am in a crappy mood, I want to be alone. I don’t want people around, and the last thing I want to do is talk to people, listen to people, or, worse, listen to their problems.
But Jesus goes to be with them. He spends time with them, and he cures them.
So it’s not a surprise that at the end of the day the disciples come up to him and say, “Hey, it’s been a long day and we’re tired and we’re hungry and so are the people – why not send them away? How about we go spend some time, just us, ‘cause we’re having a bad week?”
(I paraphrase a bit.) The disciples were probably also afraid because of what happened to John the Baptist. And it would have been quite alright for Jesus to say, “Yeah you’re right. It’s been a long day. We’ve done good work today. Tell the people to come back tomorrow; let’s go have a pint.”
But Jesus doesn’t say that. In fact, had I written the story, Jesus would’ve said, “Don’t send them away, I’m God; I’ll feed them!”
But he doesn’t say that either. Instead, he says something that I think the disciples found quite baffling. He says, “Don’t send them away, you give them something to eat.”
You give them something to eat.
We come to Jesus tired and sad, with our fears and our doubts, and He turns us around and sends us to do more work! Because in sending us we are healed. In sending us, Jesus heals us. But we don’t want to be sent; we want Jesus to take care of us, and so we respond the same way the disciples responded: “I’m too old”, or “I’m too young.” I don’t speak good English. I’m not a priest. I don’t have a car. I don’t have enough money. I don’t have enough time. I’m too busy. I’m tired. I don't want to wear a mask. I’m having a bad week. All we have are two fish and five loaves and there are like five thousand gazillion people! Are you nuts? (That’s what the disciples are saying, I think.) And Jesus says, “That’s all I need; bring it to me.”
Jesus takes the little we have – our little time, our little talent, our little treasure – so that he can offer it to the Father and multiply them.
And, oh, the wonderful things that we can do when Jesus takes our little meagre offerings – those things that are nothing without him – and multiplies them so that there is such an abundance – more than we could ever possibly need.
Jesus sends us, and in sending us he heals us. But first we have to come to him. But we don’t want to come to him. We don’t come to him because sometimes we think that our problems are not big enough. We say, “Surely God has more important things to worry about than my little problems.” Or we don’t come to him because we think that it’s too late for us: We are so bad, such terrible sinners; “you don’t know what I’ve done” – I'm a lost cause and God couldn’t possibly want to have anything to do with us. We think that sometimes. Or sometimes we think that God must be tired of us because it’s always the same thing over and over and over and over again. Isn’t it always the same sin and God must be tired of us. But God never tires of us. Pope Francis has said this many times: God never tires of forgiving us. God never tires of welcoming us. God never tires of feeding us. We are the ones who tire of coming to Him.
Don’t be tired. Come.
Isaiah tells us in the first reading next Sunday (Isaiah 55:1-3) that if you’re thirsty, come. If you’re hungry, come. If you don’t have any money, come. Come – there’s lots for everyone, an abundance. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you’ve done or where you are or how you are: Come.
Because nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ: Nothing! Nothing can separate us from the love of God, not disease or persecution or afflictions or stress or doubt or fear or the coronavirus or churches being closed or mass shootings or cyclones or earthquakes or airline crashes or discrimination or racism or death... nothing. Nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus Christ (see Romans 8:38-39). Except our own pride when we say I’m too good or I am not good enough!
How do we come to Jesus? We come to him in prayer. How many of you are spending some time in prayer every day? So many churches are still closed for personal prayer, but not all. Are you able to find an adoration chapel? Are you spending time in adoration at home? (Don't need a chapel in order to adore!) We come to Jesus when we speak to him; when we open our hearts to him.
We come to Jesus in the Sacraments, especially in the Eucharist and Reconciliation because those are the two Sacraments that we can receive every day. We've gone so long without the Eucharist, now that things are opening up, are you going to Mass? I know that some are still not able to go, and if you are sick or concerned about your health, you shouldn't go, but, if you can, why not?
We come to Jesus, and he comes to us in the Sacraments.
We come to Jesus in the Word. This is something that we've learned during the COVID Spring (for more lessons from the COVID Spring read my series
). How many of you spend time reading Scripture every day? Just one verse every day?
We come to Jesus in the Word - Jesus IS the Word!
Lastly, we come to Jesus in serving the other. That’s why Jesus says, “You give them something to eat.”
Pope Francis wrote in his Apostolic Exhortation The Joy of the Gospel
, that we are to "remove our sandals at the sacred ground of the other" (EG#169). How beautiful! That’s when we realize that the other is not “other” but “myself”. What better time, when there is so much suffering and need, to serve those around us?
We come to Jesus in serving the other.
This week Jesus invites us to come. Come. If you’re having a bad week, everyone has bad weeks, come. If you’re thirsty, everyone is thirsty; come. If you’re hungry, everyone is hungry; come. If you’re searching, everyone is searching; come.
Come. Jesus never tires of feeding us.
The psalm next Sunday is Psalm 145. It says that God opens up His hand to feed us – like a mother feeds her babies. God never tires of feeding us, and not only does He feed us, but He himself is the very food that we need.
It doesn’t matter what kind of week you’re having... come.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: firstname.lastname@example.org