everyone, this is my homily for the 18th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME. The readings for today's Mass can be
found at http://usccb.org/bible/readings/080518.cfm Thanks as
always for reading; sharing this blog on your social media sites; and
your feedback and comments. I appreciate it. Have a good week - God
Bless - Fr Jim
commercial... Newman Catholic at Montclair State is ending celebrating
our 50th Anniversary of the Opening of the Newman Center. We're trying
to raise $25,000 for the establishment of a scholarship in honor of one
of our previous chaplains, Fr. Art Humphrey, as well as to support our
ongoing mission and ministry to the Montclair State University
community. If you're interested, please check out: http://www.msunewman.com/50th-ann-appeal for more information and a link to donate on line. Thank You!
you think back to a time, an occasion, an incident where you felt that God had
answered your prayer - or maybe performed a miracle - or somehow made it clear
that He was with you in a moment where you needed him the most? One time that comes to mind was when a family
member of mine had been struck by the horrendous disease of cancer - the
diagnosis coming from seemingly out of nowhere.
They had been completely fine and healthy and happy. One day they seemed to have had symptoms that
seemed like a cold, an infection a flu or something that they had simply gone
to the doctor to get checked to see if they needed an antibiotic or
something. Instead within hours it was
discovered to be a form of cancer and soon after they were receiving chemo and
going through a horrendous round of tests, treatments and visits that were a
nightmare that was sadly not a bad dream but a new reality. I remember very vividly praying for them -
and praise God, a year later they were in complete remission and years later
have remained healthy and cancer free.
We could argue that it didn’t seem like a miracle... it wasn’t like I
prayed and the cancer left the instant I said “Amen.” But to me it was most definitely a prayer
that was answered. Where I felt God had
been present and acting in a lot of different but intentional ways that brought
about this healing.
everyone in my family necessarily saw it that way. For some they felt lucky that they had a lot
of great doctors, a terrific support system, selfless family and friends.
be honest, in this life, we’ll probably never all agree or know for sure one
way or another. If you’re a person of
faith, then you’ll see the hand of God.
If you’re not, they you’ll have other legitimate and reasonable
explanations. And in our pluralistic,
somewhat divisive society people will leave it to “agree to disagree.”
complicate matters more though, for people of faith - we can probably remember
times, occasions, incidents where God didn’t answer our prayer. Or, as we have had it explained to us, God
didn’t answer the way we had hoped and prayed for. There was no miracle. He seemed quiet, absent.
sure for some of my family members, that’s part of what fuels their belief that
we were lucky rather than blessed. They saw and heard and experienced others who
had loved ones who were ill who didn’t fare anywhere near as fortunately as our
family did. And to be really honest,
there have been countless other times where others I’ve prayed for who weren’t
as lucky - or as I choose to see it - blessed as this other occasion. All of this makes miraculous occurrences, God
moments a bit confusing.
kind of what’s happening in this Gospel.
A week ago, we heard the story of the multiplication of the loaves and
fishes. When a nameless, selfless kid
gives his 2 loaves and 5 fish and Jesus is able to feed over 5,000. It’s such a spectacular occurrence that there
were 12 baskets of left overs when all was said and done. In today’s Gospel, we hear what happened the
next day. Why did the crowds go to
Jesus? It was breakfast! They were hungry again. It’s understandable - They enjoyed dinner,
they probably wanted to see what Jesus was going to whip up for them this time.
more than likely, a great number of people all they heard was the “No” - there
would be no muffins, toast or eggs and bacon (well being Jewish they wouldn’t
have expected the bacon). I bet some
said to themselves “we liked him a lot better when he made sure there was fish
and bread enough for everyone.” They
liked Jesus for being a “genie in the lamp.”
And most likely some left having varying degrees of anger,
disappointment. Perhaps looking for another
Messiah. Maybe following the next person
who simply offered a free meal.
understandable as well. I’ve struggled
myself for example, when a friend who received a terrible diagnosis wasn’t
healed. I was thinking of a priest
friend of mine. Msgr. Greg Ketcham. He was just a few years older than me,
involved in some of the same pastoral work that I am being campus minister at
University of Illinois. Just a hard
working, holy priest - and a normal guy that I connected with over Baseball (He
was as much a St. Louis Cardinals fan as I am a Yankee fan). A few years ago he collapsed at Mass with a
seizure which turned out to be a brain tumor.
His parish started a nightly vigil where hundreds were coming to pray
for his healing. Former students started
participating as well. And word spread
throughout the country to other people who knew Msgr. Ketcham or had heard his
story and were united in prayer for a miraculous healing or even a
non-miraculous one. Sadly he died this
want it to work out with the happy ending.
And when we’re not talking bread and fish – or breakfast the next day -
when we’re using these much bigger examples or someone we love who is sick, or
dying - the emotions understandably blind us to any theological reflection. We really don’t want to hear Jesus’
explanations. We want our prayer
answered. And We want it to be yes.
there is an important theological part that gets to some core issues. Because Jesus does answer our prayers... He
does say Yes to us... But is trying to get us to look deeper. In today’s Gospel, Jesus is explaining He
wasn’t merely interested in taking care of the crowds physical hunger
constantly being fulfilled to the point that now He was going to become a
cafeteria coordinator every day simply putting together a menu... When He performed that miracle... that
excited and amazed the crowd. It was
meant to catch their hearts and minds attention in a new way to expand their
horizons. But by the next day, they went
back to simply a temporal concern.
“We’re hungry again.” The
miracle was an instance where God had shown himself in a particular way to
establish a deeper relationship- a deeper trust. We’re meant to keep looking forward... with a
new and different vision - and seeing Jesus with that new and different
vision. So as he fed them the day
before, Jesus was saying that God desires to care for them, for their
hungers... but even more for the deeper hunger, the hunger that both the poor
and the rich long to have satisfied isn’t the one in their stomachs, but the
ones in their souls... The hunger for this life that we’re all living to have
meaning to have purpose. The hunger for
the acceptance and love that comes from being told we are children of God -
thought of, cared for, desired...that hunger which is nourished by consuming
Jesus - the Bread of Life.
similar whenever Jesus healed people who were suffering from physical
illnesses. He was speaking deeper truths
in those miraculous moments. An
important one being that no they were not cursed by God - they weren’t being
punished for some sin because they were sick. Rather, Jesus’ point was that all humanity
suffers from sin and all humanity needs to be saved from that
sin. And the way Jesus’ demonstrates His
authority... that He had the power to forgive sin was when he blew their minds
and then a paralyzed person could walk; or this horribly disfigured, highly
contagious leper was healed. Jesus was
saying - the disease of the soul is far more important - and that He desires to
heal that, and that He can and does heal that.
Those healings of our souls, we tend to dismiss when we’re praying and
rooting for someone with a physical illness to be healed... We might think
“yeah, yeah, I’ll get to that -just take care of this first.” But those healings of our souls are so much
more urgent because they last into eternity.
was something my friend Msgr Ketcham kept reminding me. I was able to dig up my past text messages
and it’s amazing in hindsight. With each
message I was writing saying that I was praying for him (which I was) but
coupled with that were other thoughts.
Thoughts like I was sorry to hear
that a test result came back with bad news... I was disappointed that things
seemed to be getting worse... that there wasn’t the miraculous healing I was
hoping for. To each text though, his
responses were ever faithful though. His
actual responses to me were:
“I am trusting in whatever Jesus
has in store for me”
“The Lord has put tremendous peace
in my heart...
“I am terminal but I am confident
Jesus is embracing me”
“Jesus is shoulder to shoulder with
me in this fight Jesus is my Savior...
to his last message being “Jesus
has me where He wants me so all is good”
miracle, every prayer answered is meant to nourish our faith, deepen our trust
in Him. Msgr. Ketcham got that... Me, I’d probably be with the crowd who ate
the loaves and fishes the next morning asking Jesus for a pop-tart. And that’s okay. As long as we keep going to Him. As long as we don’t give into despair, or
anger, or disappointment... but even bring those things to Him. Looking for Him to help support and guide us
through whatever it is we’re praying for.
As we do, gently He reminds us of what He has done and continues to do
for us. So that eventually we will look
past the concerns in front of us towards that New Horizon that He points us
to - past the here and now into an
eternity where he feeds our every hunger and quenches our every thirst.