6 Aug 2012
Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – August 5, 2012
By Father J. Daniel Atkins, Holy Family Catholic Church, New Albany, Indiana
Have you ever stopped to ask yourself when the alarm goes off for the fourth time on Sunday morning and you break free of the death grip that your pillow has on you, “Why am I doing this? Why am I giving up a perfectly delicious Sunday morning in bed to go to Mass?” You get to church and in the middle of the most boring homily you’ve ever had to sit through, the question comes back again, “Why am I doing this?” If you’ve ever done anything like this don’t feel alone. There have one or two days when I’ve asked myself the same questions…especially at eight o’clock Saturday morning Mass.
I wonder if there were people who asked themselves, “Why am I doing this?” about halfway across the sea of Galilee as they were rowing to catch up to Jesus. Some of them perhaps were along for excitement, the fun. Something to do. Some of them had probably heard about the miracles that a local rabbi was working and were hoping to see one. Maybe some of the folks had enjoyed a free lunch of bread and fish and were hoping to get supper, too. Whatever was drawing them across water, they all wanted to be where Jesus was.
And that was a starting point for Jesus. That was the place where Jesus’ ministry could begin with them. That is where an encounter with God always begins…in whatever has drawn us to want to be with God. Some of us are here at Mass because we believe it’s our duty, our obligation. Some of us are here because we were invited to come along. We’re curious. Some of are here out of habit. It’s the weekend and, well, that’s just what we do. Some of us are here because we’re in trouble and we need God to help us. No matter what has drawn us here we are like the people who pursued Jesus across the lake. We are hoping to meet Jesus. And wherever we are, that’s where Jesus meets us. We don’t ever have to be afraid to come to the Eucharist because we feel Jesus will not welcome us. Jesus wants us where he is.
But there’s something else. Jesus meets us where we are so he can lead us to someplace better. To a place of deeper truth, wider vision, more meaningful living, closer friendship with him, the Father and the Holy Spirit.
Jesus greets the crowd and welcomes them. Then he confronts them with some serious truth. “You’re looking for me because you’re hungry again. You want me to feed you. But you’re here to get food that will always leave you hungry. I want to give you food that will fill the ache in your spirit. I want to feed you on real bread from heaven. I am the bread you’re looking for. That was the real meaning behind the loaves and fishes. Nobody leaves me hungry.”
Can we hear Jesus saying that to us? “You came here today because you want to fulfill your religious obligation,” Jesus tell us. That’s good. But I want to give you more than a pat on the back, I want to be near you. I want us to talk as friends.” “You came here because you were invited. But did you know that you would not have said ‘yes’ to your friend’s invitation if my Father hadn’t put the desire in your heart?” You came because of your problems. You want me to fix them. I cannot fix your problems…at least not like you hope I will. But I can be with you and together we can we can be bigger than your problems.”
Perhaps these are some of the things that Jesus wants to say to us in this Mass. Perhaps Jesus is inviting each of us as we come to meet him in Word and Food today to reflect why we’re here, on what we’re doing. And maybe Jesus is inviting us to linger for a while before we go on to other things. To let Jesus take us by the hand and lead us one step beyond where he met us.