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God's Word on Sunday: We do not earn what God gives us

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  • July 26, 2020

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 2, Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 145; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21

What is the catch? Whenever we hear that something is “free,” our suspicions kick in. There must be some hidden angle — nothing is free, we will have to pay in some way.

Our economic system feeds that fear, for it often pursues maximum profit with little or no regard for individual people. When God offers us sustenance, blessings and new life, and insists that we do not have to buy or earn it, we have certain doubts.

From the beginning, God has asked only trust and fidelity. People have found this difficult, failing often. Human beings still suffer from the illusion that we can buy, earn or manipulate our way in our relationship with God.

The tendency has been to do many things in hopes of pleasing God except the one thing that God asks. Many continue to pursue things that neither satisfy nor sustain. Never has material abundance and prosperity been so great, but neither has unhappiness and misery.

God alone can and will satisfy the deepest yearnings of the human heart. But we must allow God to bless us in God’s own way and it means giving up the control that we think we have. Our minds and hearts must be emptied so that they can be filled.

God’s invitation is to all those who recognize their need and desire life, without exception. We do not earn what God gives us and the blessings of God should never be the source of boasting or thinking oneself better than others.

Much of the tension, anxiety and violence of our world stems from religious competitiveness and the illusion that certain groups own God or enjoy more divine favour. At this point in our history, the focus must be on the generosity, kindness and mercy of God. Obstacles that prevent people from approaching God need to go.

God is not stingy with grace and blessings. God is generous, kind and merciful, so we should also show those qualities towards all.

If we only believed and understood Paul’s words from the Letter to the Romans, we would be much more at peace. Humans are fearful about practically everything, but especially that they might be separated from God.

Paul reassures us: There is no power in the universe that can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus. Height, depth, distance, time, life, death, earthly powers or any created thing, all are helpless in the face of God’s love.

We can never claim to be alone, abandoned or without purpose. The words are one thing, believing in our heart of hearts and living accordingly is another.

Human need was most evident in the desperation of the crowds. As Jesus attempted to have some alone time to pray and rest, they followed Him. Rather than rebuffing them, He compassionately taught them and cared for their needs.

The disciples wanted to send the people away so that they could find something to eat, but Jesus replied that it was not necessary — He would provide.

Lack cannot separate us from God and in the miracle that followed, Jesus demonstrated in concrete form the assurance from Romans. Undeterred by their apparent scarcity — five loaves and two fish — He looked heavenward to the source of life and blessed the food.

Not only was there enough, there was a superabundance. That was fine for those present at this miraculous feeding, but what about the teeming masses of people in need today? Why doesn’t Jesus work a few more miracles?

The purpose of the miracle was to teach and enlighten. Jesus demonstrated the power of absolute trust in God as the sole giver and sustainer of life. It also teaches us not to fear. Hoarding and competitiveness are not only unnecessary, they are counter-productive and destructive.

When we are in harmony with the Creator and with one another, there is no lack. When we are not, we experience the fearful, insecure and violent world we now inhabit. Instead of lamenting about having “only” five loaves and two fish, rejoice and give thanks.

The miracle is not wrought by magic or technique, but by great love.

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