GOD PROVIDES : 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time—August 1-2
18th Sunday of Ordinary Time—August 1-2
How much time do we spend worrying about money? We think about how to make it, how to spend it, how to save it, and, when we aren’t doing that, we worry about whether we will have enough. When the times come when the funds we’re bringing in don’t cover expenses,
money can be the source of a huge amount of stress. We know that we have certain obligations—mortgage payments coming due, children needing to be fed—and we worry whether we will be able to meet them.
Perhaps the Apostles had a similar feeling when they looked out at the crowds. They saw thousands of hungry mouths, and knew that they lacked the resources to provide for them. In fact, they turned to Jesus, and were prepared to declare bankruptcy—to admit that they simply couldn’t do it. But Jesus said, “Give them some good yourselves!” Perhaps his words seemed callous—as though he was pointing out the fact that they lacked the resources to meet their obligations. But the Apostles took their five loaves and two fish, and gave them to the crowds,
and all were able to eat fully from the abundance of the broken bread.
The Apostles were worried about having enough, and Jesus raised their vision higher. They feared a shortage of food, but Jesus taught them to focus their minds on him. Indeed, we see how trivial their problem was compared to the greatness of God, who made all things, and
provides foods to all his creatures. The Apostles would have often prayed our psalm: “The eyes of all look hopefully to you, and you give them their food in due season.” Surely the One who provides food for all the beasts of the field can also provide for his chosen ones.
The prophet Isaiah speaks the words: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat!” God promises abundance to all who turn to him, and he provides for his lowly ones. He invites us simply to trust in him, and to know that
he will provide. We are called to set out hearts on higher things than money, to seek God first, and to know that he will provide for all our needs.
Perhaps the prophet’s invitation strikes us as naïve, too simplistic, or even disparaging of our real problems and difficulties. Surely we know that, throughout the world, many people go hungry, including men and women who have greater trust in God than us. How, then, could we
not worry about making sure that there is enough food on the table?
It is true that our daily work is important. A father’s efforts to feed his family are a sign of love, and mark an important part of his path toward God. But if we are honest, we have to admit that out best efforts accomplish nothing without God’s help. The farmer can plant the seed
and toil, but God formed the seed, and gives the rain and sun that makes it grow. Even in our modern world, we are all too aware that hard work does not guarantee a job that pays the bills, in the end, we are all dependent on God and his providence.
It is when we recognize that we are dependent that we can begin to trust. I cannot guarantee that I will be able to put food on the table, but I turn to God, and find in him the one who will provide. When I am able to recognize that I can’t do everything, I am also able to turn to God who can. We worry about money because we think it is all up to us. When we recognize that everything depends on God, we still do our part, but we don’t need to worry anymore, because we know that, in the end, it doesn’t depend on us, it depends wholly upon God.
But people do go hungry. God is good, and God provides, but people find themselves without food. Here we touch on the mystery of which St. Paul speaks. “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or
peril, or the sward? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.” When we place our hope in God, the things of this world take a secondary place. God will provide. But sometimes he provides us with challenges, and difficulties, and even suffering, as
he did for his only Son. He does so because he loves us, and he desires to invite us to love him and trust him more deeply. When we enter into these challenges armed with the love of God, we discover, in mysterious ways, his blessings and his protecting hand. We become richer in
God provides. At times he invites us to give thanks for bounty, and at times we learn to love in times of want. But he always provides. He nourished the crowds with five broken loaves, and today, he nourishes us with his broken body, the source of life. We still live in a
world of bread and money, but our hearts are set on a new world, where we will be nourished with the living bread of God.