Saturday, August 2, 2014

"Fish" or "Fishes"?

Do you know of any instance in which Jesus turned someone away?

Throughout the gospels, Jesus gives of Himself to all those who approach Him in faith. Whether they need a healing, whether they have a question or even when they are trying to test Him, whoever approaches Jesus with a need gets His full attention.

Today’s gospel is no different. Jesus is greeted on the shore by over five thousand people. For the small villages that surrounded the Sea of Galilee, this would have been a record crowd. Jesus and his disciples had probably never seen a multitude that large in all their lives. What does Saint Matthew tell us? Is Jesus overwhelmed by so many people? Is He irritated that they have intruded on His plans to get away to a deserted place for some rest? Does He tell them to come back on another day or to make an appointment with Him? No. He looks on them and has pity on them. His Sacred Heart is so full of love and mercy for every person that He cannot but meet whatever need is brought to Him in faith. He cures their sickness, speaks to them of the love of the Heavenly Father and even performs a miracle to make sure they do not leave hungry.

The past few Sundays we have been meditating over many of Jesus’ parables. We read the parable of the seed and the sower in which Jesus teaches us that those who receive His word in faith bear abundant fruit. We read the parable of the weeds and the wheat in which we learn that God shows love and mercy on both the good and the evil. And we read the parables of the pearl of great price and the treasure buried in the field through which Jesus taught us that no earthly possession can compare to the riches of grace that God offers us. All these parables and many others that Jesus spoke are meant to reveal to us the mysteries of the Kingdom of Heaven. They are meant to show us what our world will be like when God finally has established His rule over all the earth. They reveal to us what we can expect when God’s will is done on earth as it is in heaven.

If the parables teach us what God’s Kingdom will be like, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves and fish show us what the Kingdom will be like. In God’s Kingdom, every need will be met. There will be no more sickness, no more disease, no more death. In the Kingdom of Heaven, God Himself will teach us. And it will be a time of plenty when there will be enough for everyone, when no one will go hungry and no one will worry about how to provide for his family. Jesus was showing the people that the Kingdom of Heaven He preached about was not just a future reality waiting for them after they died. Rather it was a power already at work in the world which had its most beautiful expression in Jesus Himself.

The power, love and mercy that Jesus revealed on the shores of the Sea of Galilee to the multitudes that gathered to meet Him is still available to us who gather here today. Like those five thousand men and their families, we come to this place with many needs. Some of us need healing. Some of us have unanswered questions. Many of us seek a simple reminder that God is with us and that He loves us. We have looked in other places and have been turned away. What we are looking for was not there. But in this place we find the love our hearts are longing for and the mercy our souls desire. Here we find Jesus.

Today’s first reading from the prophet Isaiah speaks beautifully of God’s power to meet our needs. Our Heavenly Father appeals to us to come to Him. Come you who are thirsty. Come without money. Come no matter what you need. Come to God who is the source of every good thing. God can never fail us, and He will never turn us away. Whatever it is that we think is lacking in our lives, whatever makes our heart ache, whatever worries keep us awake at night, God has the answer and the cure. We simply need to come to Him, open our arms and wait to receive it.

We are privileged today to be able to gather in the presence of our Risen Lord. He is here among us. We cannot see Him, but His presence is real. He has the power to read our hearts, to see our need and to touch us with His healing love. We need only open our hearts and welcome him. He will do the rest. It may take time, it might not happen in just the way we expect, but He will not let us down. Saint Paul assures us that nothing can separate us from the love of God revealed in Jesus. That love is poured out on us in abundance each day to renew us, strengthen us and sanctify us.

We are privileged today not only to be in the presence of our Risen Lord, but to be fed by Him. We will witness a miracle no less astounding than the one the crowd witnessed at the multiplication of the loaves and fish. We will witness simple bread become the very Body of Christ. Jesus Himself will give us His Body to nourish our souls. There is no greater gift in all the world. There is nothing that can compare to it. God has come down to earth to feed me and you. Our deepest need is met, what we long for is provided to us and we will never be the same.

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