Deacon Cornellís Homily


Isaiah 55:1-3
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Matthew 14:13-21


July 30-31, 2011, Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle A

Today's readings remind us what happens when the deep hunger in human hearts is entrusted to Divine Compassion. What is Divine Compassion? At the most specific level it is expressed in what we just heard from that Gospel reading: "When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. " And then when he saw they were hungry, he fed them.

At a more profound level, it is expressed in the wonders of creation, and most strikingly, in the fact that God became one of us, and lived, suffered, and died as one of us. At a personal level, everything we have, has been given to us from God out of God's compassion for us. My sister, Sr. M. Doretta Cornell, is a Sister of the Divine Compassion. The founder of her Order, Mother Mary Veronica, once expressed this as, "I have nothing to give but what I received." That reading from Isaiah we just heard expresses the passionate desire of God to fill us with everything we need, to give us fullness of life. Paul highlights the depth of that compassion by assuring us that nothing we do or anyone else can do, can separate us from that compassion that God has for us.

Like opposite poles of a magnet, God's compassion for us is linked to a desire deep in every human to experience God's love. Bruce Springsteen expressed this reality in his hit, Hungry Heart. 1600 years before that, St. Augustine famously said in the opening sentences of his Confessions, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our hearts are restless until they rest in you." Some atheists have speculated that this desire, this "hole in our heart", is the origin of our "creating" God. But this theory flies in the face of every other human hunger or thirst. Water was not created by our thirst, nor food by our hunger, nor human relationships by our desire for belonging. Each one of those desires, and every other one, is a sign that something exists that can satisfy that desire. This "hole in our heart" is shaped like God, and only God can fill it.

Author John Eldredge in his book Journey of Desire says that when it comes to this fundamental hunger (or thirst), we have three choices:

  1. Suppress it, ignore it or repress it - become dead. Many people think this is the Christian message. Nothing could be further from the truth.
  2. Become addicted. We try to satisfy the hunger with the things of this world, people, pleasure, objects but since none of them can ever satisfy us, we crave more.
  3. Be alive and hungry for the one thing that can satisfy us: God.

Bruce Springsteen's Hungry Heart expresses that tendency we have to addiction: trying to fill satisfy that hunger with something, or someone, other than God leads to pain and suffering. Today's readings remind us that when we stay alive and hungry, when we trust in God to fill that hunger, miracles happen.

I would suggest that we miss the point of today's Gospel if all we see is a miracle story, some magic-like multiplication of loaves and fishes. It is so much more than that. Even the TV show Jeopardy recognizes this. The Final Jeopardy question this Tuesday was: THIS MIRACLE THAT HAPPENS IN ALL 4 GOSPELS, INCLUDING MARK 6 & LUKE 9, HAS ELEMENTS THAT SYMBOLICALLY REPRESENT JESUS.

The correct answer, of course, was the feeding of the 5,000 or the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. But what is significant in the wording of that question was that it recognized that this story has symbolic significance. The ones who had the five loaves and two fishes trusted in Jesus enough to give up their meager food. That trust is symbolic of how we are to stay alive and hungry, trusting that Divine Compassion will satisfy us. We have to trust enough to give what little we have over to God so that it might be multiplied. Of course the food symbolizes Jesus' willingness to feed us with his his own body. From the manna in the desert to the institution of the Eucharist, food in the bible is always symbolic of Divine Compassion.

So what does all of this mean for us, gathered here today to celebrate Eucharist? The first clue is in that name, Eucharist. A Greek word, it means Thanksgiving. We come here to give thanks to God for all that we have been given. But that is just the beginning. We come to Mass to keep the first commandment. I know, most of us think going to mass every week is to keep the Third Commandment: keep holy the sabbath. But we do that by what we do the rest of today: slowing down, not working, using today to reflect on God and God's love. Mass is about putting our trust only in God. Just as the crowd trusted in Jesus and were fed, so we come to Mass to strip away anything that we have put in God's place in our lives, and to place our trust completely in God. We do that by our symbolic gift, for example. The bread and wine and collection offering symbolize us. I tell people, imagine everyone in this church stacked up on the altar when the priest invokes the Spirit to change these gifts into the body and blood of Christ. We make that trust physical when we stand up and process forward to receive communion, becoming what we eat and drink. Do we trust enough in God that we are not going to catch any disease from the precious blood? Do we trust enough in God that when we eat this body that was given up for us that we are willing to give our body up for others?

God never does anything TO us. God's gifts are always the result of Divine Compassion meeting our trusting our deepest hunger to God alone. But be careful what you ask for. Divine Compassion is always a gift to be shared, to be given to others. So

We are the twelve baskets of leftovers. Let's not go to waste.

homily index