XVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time

XVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time

Sex., 31 Jul. 20 Lectio Divina - Ano A

I Reading -     Isaiah 55:1-3

Responsorial Psalm -145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18

II Reading -    Romans 8:35, 37-39

Gospel-           Matthew 14:13-21

 

The first reading is taken from the book of the prophet Isaiah, who encourages the people in exile to come back, with an invitation (vv. 1-3a), and a promise (vv. 3b-5). The invitation is to only those who are thirsty, to those who have no money. The prophet presents God’s nearness to His people in the time of exile, as consolation by offering them abundant life. Maybe the invitation is also extended to those who spend money on what cannot satisfy them. The solution offered by the prophet is to listen to live, and the promise of the renewal of the covenant “I will be your God and you will be my people”. 

The theme of God’s nearness to His people is seen in the second reading. God’s love enables us to be more than conquerors through every trial that we face for His sake. God’s great love for us is not diminished or terminated by our failures, shortcomings, or sins, because it goes back to God’s choice of us before the foundation of the world. God’s great love for us is not threatened or undermined by all sorts of adversity, including martyrdom. Paul is showing that no matter how difficult the trial, even to the point of martyrdom, God’s love for us is a rock-solid foundation. Whatever the trial, we can come back to God’s love for us in Christ Jesus our Lord.

MATTHEW 14:13-21. THE FEEDING OF THE FIVE THOUSAND

Chapter 13 ended with the rejection of Jesus at Nazareth, where he was unable to “do many mighty works because of their unbelief” (13:54-48). That unpleasantness was followed by the story of the beheading of John the Baptist (14:1-12). That is followed by the story of the feeding of the five thousand (14:13-21). 

This is the only miracle recorded in all four Gospels (see Mark 6:35-44, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:1-14), a fact that speaks well of its importance to the early church.

           “Now when Jesus heard this, he withdrew from there in a boat, to a deserted place apart” (13a). What Jesus heard was the news of John the Baptist’s death. Matthew doesn’t tell us where Jesus goes, nor the reason for Jesus’ withdrawal. However, it’s a time he wishes to be alone, a time to grieve, a time to heal, or a time to prepare?

“When the multitudes heard it, they followed him on foot from the cities.  Jesus went out, and he saw a great multitude. He had compassion on them, and healed their sick” (13b -14). Jesus’ compassion trumps his need for solitude. In Matthew's Gospel the feeling of compassion is always attributed to Jesus. The verb, already appeared in Mt 9,6, has three times as object the crowds (Mt 15: 32; in 18:27 it is a parable and in 20: 34 for the two blind men of Jericho). The compassion of Jesus never remains sentiment but is always operative and a factor of life. 

In the evening, the disciples approached him and said to him: "The place is deserted, and it is already late: dismiss the crowd to go to the villages to buy food." But Jesus said to them, "There is no need for them to go; you yourself feed them"(15-16).

Humanly the apostles know that in addition to these things (healing and perhaps teaching) every man needs to find accommodation and to eat and, as the day begins to decline, they ask Jesus to dismiss the crowd. Everything put an end to this request, Jesus himself after announcing the kingdom could accept the request, accept the separation of the two things, for each has a different moment and a different source. If we think for a moment, as so many times happen to us today, life lived in watertight compartments, on the one hand our relationship with God, on the other, our things, our relationship with the world, two parallel paths, which need not touch each other.

What changed the course of the history of the disciples and of the crowd then, and which must necessarily change now that of the church, is the request of Jesus to the twelve: "Give them something to eat yourself". This request, in the Eucharistic meaning of the passage, adds something to the story of the last supper in which Jesus says: "Do this in memory of me". The question opens a space for the misunderstanding of the disciples and at the same time for the action of Jesus. Like so many times in the church today, the disciples focus on what is missing and not on what is: “We have only five loaves and two fish, leave these people to go and buy." They cannot perceive the presence and relationship with Jesus as something to be given. Faced with "hungry" humanity, the solution is not to go and buy food, at the end of the day, the solution, the only solution, is Jesus.

But they said to him, "Five loaves and two fish are all we have here." Then he said, "Bring them here to me," and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over– twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Jesus acts starting from what the disciples have: five loaves and two fish. Various are the interpretations given to these two elements, among them the five books of the Torah, with reference to the first, and the dual commandment of love, towards God and neighbor, with reference to the second. Surely Jesus starts not only from what they have but also from what they are, the fragility of human nature, what he has assumed, what he now takes and looks up to heaven. In one verse is described all the action of Jesus, in only five verbs there is all his relationship with God, with the Church and with the world: take (the loaves and fishes), raise (the eyes to heaven), bless, break, give (to the disciples). 

By placing this relationship, the evangelist Matthew wants to demonstrate that the gift of one's life expressed at the last supper is possible when it is preceded by the gift of what one has. They all eat, twelve baskets are left and twelve refers to the twelve tribes of Israel and means that the same gesture of sharing that Jesus made with his disciples is possible for all Israel. The abundance of loaves comes from sharing made out of love. Those who had eaten were five thousand, this number indicates the action of the Spirit, in fact, Pentecost is the fiftieth day after Easter and means that the crowd was not only given material food but with it the Spirit, the love that originated the gesture of sharing. 

  All his action is aimed at humanity: "To distribute them to the crowd". There seems to be a chiastic correspondence (words repeated in reverse order), to take to give, to raise one's eyes to be able to break, and at the center of all blessings. In this last act, there is all of himself, all that comes from God in favor of man. 

God has placed everything in the hands of the Son, he has given all of himself so that - through each apostle - he can reach the crowd. And everyone ate and satiated. Jesus wants us to think not in terms of what we do not have but rather in terms of what God has given us, bringing forward what we have, no matter how little, we can become instruments of God’s closeness and satiate the thirst and hunger. Let’s go to Jesus, the Fountain of living water to quench our thirst, to listen to Him. May the Eucharist strengthen us to break ourselves to share Him to everyone who requires and pass on God’s invitation to participate in His banquet of life.