18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A

     When you read the bible, have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “how would I respond if I were in that situation?” Have you ever stopped to ask yourself, “if I were in today’s gospel, and Jesus told me to feed 5,000 people with a few loaves of bread a couple of fish, how would I respond?” Can you at least imagine how the apostles must have felt when Jesus told them to feed the five thousand who had gathered? Here Jesus is asking His apostle’s to do what is seemingly impossible. I think it’s fair to assume we would do exactly what the apostles did, we would have made an excuse. We would respond “Lord there is no way, we just can’t do it … it’s just not possible.” Look if we are honest, don’t we have to admit that we are often tempted to make excuses for much smaller things in our life all the time. If you are anything like me, we can make excuses for anything and we can convince ourselves that our excuses are true without too much difficulty.

     If we can do that in other areas of our life, isn’t it true that we can also make excuses when it comes to practicing our faith? Isn’t it easy for us to come up with an excuse about why we can’t make Mass on Sunday, how one little sin here isn’t really that big of a deal, it’s not really a big deal if I don’t take time to pray this morning, I can do that later, or even I know I should follow a certain teaching of the Church, but it’s hard so I’m going to make an excuse.

     We can come up with all kinds of reasons for the excuses we make, but at the end of the day “an excuse is used to avoid responsibility.”[1] That’s why we make excuses, to get out of some responsibility. Look at it in today’s gospel, the apostles have been given the responsibility of ensuring the huge crowd has what they need to eat, a seemingly impossible responsibility given the size of the crowd. Rather than trying to fulfill the responsibility Jesus gives them, they make an excuse. They claim they don’t have enough food so it is impossible. Look, if we want to stop making excuses, we have to accept responsibility. Ultimately if we want to stop making excuses in our spiritual life, we have to accept responsibility for our decision, as St. Paul reminds us in our second reading, not to let anything separate us from the love of Christ.[2] Jesus never makes an excuse. Jesus already done the work of showering His love upon us, we can guarantee that His end of the deal is held up. He has taken on the responsibility of our salvation and He has done His part. The excuses come from us. You see, Jesus, hanging on the cross, made no excuses. He could have actually made excuses. He didn’t have to die on a cross. He is innocent. But He makes no excuse. He hangs there and loves us. The challenge is that sometimes we make excuses in response to that love. Jesus does the hard part; He loves us and tells us that all He wants in return is for us to love Him in return. He tells us exactly how we are to love Him. John 14:15, “if you love me you will keep my commandments.”[3] There is the responsibility, keep the commandments. I know it is easier said than done, but really is it that hard? It is not like He’s asking us to die on a cross, He’s just asking us to keep His commandments.

     Did you notice how Jesus answers the apostle’s excuse in today’s gospel? He doesn’t ignore it. He doesn’t give in and say “your right you can’t do this.” No, He takes what they offer and makes something greater of it. The apostles give the excuse that they only have five loaves of bread and two fish and therefore they can’t uphold their responsibility to feed the all these people. What does Jesus do? He says “give me what you have and together we will fulfill that responsibility.” Give me the little you have and let’s work together to accomplish this responsibility. All the sudden the apostles realize they are not alone, and while the task ahead may seem impossible they know that “with God all things are possible.”[4] Jesus is with them and so if they offer their excuse to God and they do their part, the two of them can achieve the responsibility for which they were making an excuse.

     The good news is that Jesus never asks the impossible of us. It may seem at times that He is asking the impossible of us. But that is not love, He would never ask us to do the impossible. Even if it seems impossible, God can take our excuses, just as He did His apostles’ excuse, and partner with us to fulfill our responsibility if only we show up, put the excuse aside and be willing to do our part.

     So what excuses do you make? We all make them so what are they for you. When you think about those excuses what responsibility are your running from? Can you see how partnering with God, you can actually fulfill that responsibility? We could take tons of example’s and I will acknowledge that perhaps this isn’t the best example because you are all here, but it’s an easy example. Take, for example, the many excuses we might make for not going to Mass on Sunday. Well the responsibility is to follow the third commandment by attending Mass on Sunday. It’s pretty simple and pretty clear, but we have all kinds of excuses. Nearly every day I probably hear the excuse “father I want to pray, but I just don’t have the time for it.” I get it, we are busy, but there is a responsibility. Are we going to let the excuse get in the way or are we going to say to God “I’ll give you the time I have and I’ll trust you’ll make time elsewhere for the other things that need to happen?” Let the excuse go, fulfill responsibility and trust that God will provide for whatever else is there.

     Did you notice that in today’s gospel, Jesus had every reason to make an excuse? Here He is, the whole setting for today’s Gospel. He has just heard that His cousin, John the Baptist, has had his head cut off while he is in jail. His cousin has been brutally murdered and Jesus has every reason to say I am going away and leave me alone. He has every reason to have time to Himself, and to pray. But what does He do? He goes off and sees the crowd and He realize His responsibility is there salvation. No one would have complained if He said “I just need a little time alone; my cousin was just killed.” But He doesn’t take it. He lives up to His responsibility. He feeds the needs of those around Him. When we read the gospels, we see that Jesus doesn’t make excuses. If we are Christians, followers of Jesus, then neither can we make excuses.

     You know there is something interesting about excuses that I think today’ Gospel gives us a glimpse into. There is always an element of truth. Right? The apostles come to Jesus and tell Him that the it’s getting late so the people need to go home to find food. That is a true statement and the apostles may actually be looking out for the well-being of the people. Jesus responds that they should feed them and the apostles make the honest statement that they don’t have enough food., but it’s still an excuse. So what excuses do you make? When you evaluate those excuses what responsibility are you running from? How can you take those responsibilities, even if they seem impossible, and offer them to Jesus so that He can partner with you to fulfill those responsibilities? Jesus truly does feed us and answers all of our needs, so today is the chance to put aside our excuses and to partner with Jesus to fulfill our responsibilities.

[1] Dave Anderson, The Difference between an excuse and a reason available at http://www.andersonleadershipsolutions.com/the-difference-between-an-excuse-and-a-reason/

[2] Romans 8:38-39

[3] John 14:15

[4] Matthew 19:26

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