Is it as true for you as it is for me that some of the most moving stories in this life are those that involve persons triumphing over some great weakness that could have been their downfall? In my own life I have presided over funerals for alcoholics who rose to great sanctity with God’s grace and were able to transform this stumbling block into the cornerstone of a new life both for themselves and for others. We all face at times what appear to be great dragons only to be shown that they are but paper dragons in the light and power of Christ. Often what may at first appear to be our great separator from God is that which can become the bridge to his very presence. This is some of the sense of St. Paul’s words for this Sunday when he writes, “What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us.”
Our weaknesses drive us to Christ and the imagery of this Sunday’s Gospel captures Jesus looking back at us following him and sees him “moved with pity.” He sees us in our need and his heart, like a father’s heart, wants to heal and guide. He is the fulfillment of the words from the Book of Wisdom “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!… Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” God wants to give and our task then is to come to him and accept the direction.This can be tough. For some it means a return to the sacrament of confession, for others the anointing of the sick, yet others the acceptance of some teaching of the church that has proven difficult or challenging.
At times we too can share in this ministry of healing and directing. We have all encountered other’s tears and listened to their searching questions and may have turned to God asking him to do something. Sometimes at these moments he turns back to us and says, as he did to the apostles, “Give them some food yourselves.” Taken aback we reply that “five loaves and two fish are all we have,” but Christ insists, “bring them here to me..” When you and are faced with situations where we seem to be in the right place to serve and respond and yet feel profoundly inadequate, it is then that we offer it up to Jesus and go with it. Providence places us in situations whose wisdom is often known only to God. If we move with a sincere heart, try to speak the words of truth and move as closely as we can with God and his church, God blesses that work and we need not fear nor look back. At each Eucharist we come to Christ with our seemingly inadequate lives and we entrust them to his blessing. Christ abundantly blesses what we offer and mysteriously applies our “yes” to the work of redemption. Loaves and fishes may be all we have, but with the blessing of God, they can feed thousands.
Questions for Reflection
1. Do I trust in the providence of God?
2. Do I believe Christ is moved to help me when I am in need?
Fr. Vander Steeg is pastor of St. Mary Parish, Greenville, and St. Edward Parish, Mackville.