Reflection for Monday, August 7, 2006: 18th week in Ordinary Time.

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Kuhlman, Mary Haynes
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Today's readings include this narrative of a false prophet, the Responsorial Psalm celebrating the "statutes" of the Lord, and then a familiar tale, often called in our time "the multiplication of the loaves and fishes." Why this combination?||The first two selections emphasize that God is God _ not us, not our favorite preachers or news analysts or talk-show hosts. Whether self-deluded or an actual con man, Hananiah told the priests and people what they wanted to hear. But God punished his arrogance and false prophecy, reminding us that only God is God. In our own time, about how to interpret the commandments to love God and to love neighbor, perhaps we are hearing only what we want to hear. So today our Psalm is "Lord, teach me your statutes" _ let me actually listen to what God wants me to hear.|And what do I hear in this Gospel? The story of Jesus feeding the multitude must be important: it's in all four Gospels, with only little variations. It's even prefigured by at least one somewhat similar story, when Elisha fed a hundred people with twenty loaves in the second Book of Kings (we heard that passage on a recent Sunday.) Here in today's reading from Matthew and also in Luke the disciples have five loaves and two fish for 5000 men _ plus women and children, an interesting note. . . In Mark it's seven loaves, no fish, 4000 people, and in John we have more details: Andrew has found a boy who has the five loaves, two fish, for the 5000. I have entertained the suggestion (I first read this as a teenager in a popular historical novel by Thomas B. Costain) that Jesus's teaching simply inspired people to share whatever food they had brought for themselves. Today I don't think we can give a simple natural explanation to the feeding of so many, with the twelve baskets of leftovers in all four Gospel versions. In John's Gospel, Philip and Andrew are already counting the crowd and scouting for provisions; if every man there, or anyway many men had brought food, the disciples would already know it. Looking again at today's Gospel from Matthew, I notice first that Jesus has just heard of his cousin, John the Baptist's death. He has to be terribly sad _ and perhaps anxious; John's death is a warning about his own death, not far in the future. "He withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself," but he can't grieve in peace. The crowds seek him out, and out of his own grief comes his "pity for them" and "he cured their sick."|Then, maybe because I'm writing this on a hot summer day, I notice that the crowd under that Mediterranean sun apparently has enough water, perhaps springs or streams in the "deserted place" suddenly filled by a multitude. Jesus provides what they do need, food, both real and symbolic. His actions are about the same in all four Gospels: in today's reading from Matthew, "he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples who in turn gave them to the crowds." Of course we see the pattern in what he did at his Last Supper, and in every Mass, every day, all around the world.|My prayer today: may this well-known "miracle of the loaves and fishes" teach me what God wants me to learn. When I think I'm too little to do anything for the needy and suffering people of the world, I might think about how Jesus took up Little and Did Much. Let God be God, in all his Providence for us.|Our Father, Who art in Heaven, Hallowed be Thy Name.... Give us today our daily bread.... whatever we need to do Your Will. And if, and only if it is also Your Will for us, give us the fish, or whatever we desire and enjoy today, out of your generous abundance, out of your abundant, enormous, miraculous Love.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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