18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

IS 55:1-3 / PS 145: 8-9, 15-16, 17-18 / ROM 8:35, 37-39 / MT 14:13-21

     In January the Boston Globe ran a fascinating article entitle Self-help books and the promise of change.[1] The article claimed that some 549 million dollars are spent a year on self-help books in America alone and coined the term the “Self-help culture.” It is clear that people in our country are hungry, they are searching to solve life’s problems. The author went on to note, that self-help books are nothing new, they existed in ancient Egypt and were even around in the Roman Empire at the time of Jesus.

     These self-help books have been best sellers for thousands of years because even as society continues to advance mankind continues to be hungry. Unfortunately as people continue to turn to these self-help books they look in worldly places for a supernatural answer. Whether you have ever opened a self-help book before or not can’t we all admit that at times we turn to earthy things thinking they will make us happy? I think at times we all think worldly things can satisfy our deepest desires, yet all we have to do is look at the world and see that material things, while they can certainly makes our lives better, will not ultimately satisfy us.

     I don’t even think we need to look far to see the desire of our culture for the spiritual, for that satisfaction at our deepest level. As I look around I am not surprised to see the great increase in popularity of yoga and the practice of Eastern Spiritualities. With the crazy world we live in it only makes sense that people want to get away from reality for a while and try to find inner peace.

     Rather then turning to self-help books, eastern spiritualities, retail therapy, or whatever other worldly attempt we make to satisfy our deepest desire we should head the reminder from the prophet Isaiah, in today’s first reading, to turn to the Lord for we know that certainly worldly things can bring us some pleasure yet we know ultimately our happiness rests in God alone or to quote St. Augustine “our heart is restless until it rests in you o lord.”[2]

     In today’s first reading the prophet Isaiah is speaking to people who have known God, whose ancestors encountered God leading them to safety from Egypt even providing food in the form of Manna in the desert, yet for various reasons they have gone astray, they have turned away from trusting in the Lord and were looking for worldly self-help solutions. Isaiah reminds us that self-help books will not answer our deepest questions and if we trutly want to find the ultimate fulfillment we must accept the invitation to the banquet where we will receive life itself. If we truly believed the prophet Isaiah wouldn’t we put aside the self help and ask where is this banquet. Fortunately for us, Christ answers that question for us in today’s Gospel.

     In today’s Gospel we hear the famous bible story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. In the first part of the Gospel Jesus has just heard that his cousin John the Baptist was killed and he desires to go off and be alone for a while. The people, not wanting to leave Jesus alone, discover where he is going and get their ahead of Him so that when he gets off His boat He sees a vast crowd.

     In the Gospels we see repeatedly that large numbers of people followed Jesus, but why. I’m sure their were many reasons, some people probably found Him interesting, others wanted to experience His healing power, others perhaps wanted to know if the stories being told about Him were true but even for all these reasons I am sure that many people followed Jesus because the came to know Jesus to be the Way, the Truth and the Life.

     Jesus sees the people and recognizes their needs and so in His mercy puts aside His wishes and serves them, but the disciples, worried about worldly needs and rightfully so, want to send the people away to find provisions. Jesus challenges His disciples to put aside the worldly advice of self-help books and trust in Him rather than sending the people away. In taking the 5 loaves of bread and 2 fishes Jesus teaches the disciples and all of us not to trust in our own resources but to trust in Him. Jesus calls us to use the resources He gives us to cooperate in His work, to let Him bless us with what we need. In trusting in Jesus the apostles and all those gathered not only had enough to eat but they had a super abundance, will Jesus not also provide a superabundance for us if only we come to Him with what little we have?

     This week as summer begins to wind down and the craziness of kids going back to school etc begins to become a reality let us remember that teaching of today’s second reading from St. Paul even amidst the many distractions of our world and the many solutions our world proposes there is nothing that can separate us from the Love of God, if only we come to Him. Only one person can truly satisfy our deepest desires and so let us approach this altar inviting Him who feeds us and answers every one of our needs to enter into our hearts.

     This week let us take the challenge of today’s readings to see our hunger and begin to work with that hunger to seek the Lord who is the Way, the Truth and the Life. Let us open our hearts and minds to see the hunger around us, so that as we walk in the steps of Jesus trusting Him rather than self-help books, we can in turn reflect Him and feed others in our self-help culture.

[1] http://www.bostonglobe.com/arts/books/2014/01/14/self-help-books-and-promise-change/4nJqRBpinOSWQ4wU536jPP/story.html

[2] Confessions Book 1

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