Opening reflection (taken from Magnificat magazine, www.magnificat.com): The pity of Jesus Christ always results in a New Creation. Christ is not scandalized by human need and want. Rather, the Lord regards every experience of human lack as a prime opportunity to manifest God’s lavishness. From the earliest days, God has beckoned us, promising, “Come, all who are thirsty! Come, you who have no money!” The Lord delights in the dependence that our destitution evokes, and He answers it – in today’s “deserted place” with bread and fish, and in the upper room with His very self. Trial, distress, hunger and danger do not separate us from the love of Christ. Rather, they draw Him close to us with a love that conquers all.
(This weekend’s Scripture readings are available in the New American Bible translation – the one used in U.S. Catholic parishes – at the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops website: http://www.usccb.org/nab/073111.shtml)
First Reading: Isaiah 55:1-3 (Revised Standard Version)
A reading from the book of the prophet Isaiah.
Thus says the Lord:
Ho, every one who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and he who has no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.
Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labor for that which does not satisfy?
Hearken diligently to me, and eat what is good,
and delight yourselves in fatness.
Incline your ear, and come to me;
hear, that your soul may live;
and I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: The beginning of this passage sounds rather like the “prosperity gospel” if one reads only at the literal surface. Certainly God had promised Moses and the Israelites a land “flowing with milk and honey.” And Isaiah here is looking past the days of Israel’s defeat and exile to their eventual restoration to the Promised Land. Obey God again, and you will return home: This is the surface meaning of this passage and many like it in the Old Testament’s prophetic books.
But focus also on this key portion of the reading: “Incline your ear, and come to Me; hear, that your soul may live.” It was Israel’s sins, its foolish resolve to conduct its foreign affairs and religious and community life like those of other nations, to which Isaiah referred as “that which is not bread” and “that which does not satisfy.” To follow the ways of God always meant far more than a path to material security. The security of the soul was God’s focus from the time He created Adam and Eve. Jesus would say it centuries later: Seek God’s “righteousness” – His ways – and follow them. Then all the things needed for this earthly life would follow. One does not need wealth and power. We do need Jesus!
Second Reading: Romans 8:35, 37-39
A reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Romans.
Brothers and sisters: Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
The word of the Lord. Thanks be to God.
Meditation: The Church has drawn its Epistle readings from chapter 8 of Romans for several weeks now. Having explored what it means to live in the ways of God who justifies us through Christ, Paul seeks to reassure his readers who looked around at the Roman world and realized how different a life – and how dangerous a life – they were being called to live.
Christ came not only to redeem us from our failures to follow God but to model how we are to follow Him. If He would do this to the point of death, can any of our earthly sufferings possibly separate us from his all-encompassing, self-sacrificing love? Paul, who already had suffered many of these things in his ministry and would suffer far more, emphatically says no. He knew personally how much God loved him. He invites us to trust as he trusts.
Gospel: Matthew 14:13-21
A reading from the holy gospel according to Matthew. Glory to You, Lord.
Now when Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew from there in a boat to a lonely place apart. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. As he went ashore he saw a great throng; and he had compassion on them, and healed their sick. When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, “This is a lonely place, and the day is now over; send the crowds away to go into the villages and buy food for themselves.” Jesus said, “They need not go away; you give them something to eat.” They said to him, “We have only five loaves here and two fish.” And he said, “Bring them here to me.” Then he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass; and taking the five loaves and the two fish he looked up to heaven, and blessed, and broke and gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the crowds. And they all ate and were satisfied. And they took up twelve baskets full of the broken pieces left over. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children.
The Gospel of the Lord. Praise to You, Lord Jesus Christ.
Meditation: As we once again ponder Jesus’ feeding of the 5,000 – an event recounted in all four Gospels – Isaiah’s words in the first reading should come back to mind. The crowds who followed Jesus personified those who were thirsty, those who were hungry, those who were sick. Remember, though, that the earthly miracle of multiplying a small amount of earthly food came at the end of this day. Why did they follow Jesus around the lake? Because it was their souls that hungered and thirsted. There’s no question that Jesus taught the crowds even as He healed those who needed it.
So the multiplying of the loaves and fishes symbolizes God’s call through Isaiah to “come to the waters” and to receive food “without money and without price.” It also of course symbolizes the ultimate food that Jesus would give us: His body and blood in the Eucharist. So please spend some time today reflecting on the true food and true drink that we need to live both in this world and forever. Without Christ, we truly cannot live.
Close with individual prayer, followed by Our Father, Hail Mary and Glory Be