Reflection for Sunday, August 4, 2002: 18th week in Ordinary Time.

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Gillick, Larry, S.J.
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For a more prayerful experience of this Sunday's liturgy, picture Jesus inviting you to sit down amidst a large crowd. He takes some bread and prays a blessing over it, and then invites you to step forward to take some and then begin distributing bread to the people around you. Jesus is not watching you do this, but you notice He is gazing so intently and compassionately on the crowd; it is as if He can not believe all the infirmities and hunger which surrounds Him. You might find yourself looking up as well and begin seeing what Jesus embraces with His eyes and heart.PRE-PRAYERING|We can pray these days with the many invitations which Jesus offers us to receive from Him and He requests that we distribute His gifts to others. We can also pray with our awareness of those upon whom Jesus continues to look with compassion. A more difficult grace for which to ask is that we might allow our own pains and grieving to be interrupted by the tears and needs of others.|REFLECTION|Being invited, included, and offered help are wonderful human experiences. Rejection and being ignored are deep human fears. Our readings for next Sunday's liturgy will speak of our being invited included and offered gifts of a very human kind.|We hear in today's First Reading, the opening verses of the last chapter of the Book of Consolation, from the Prophet Isaiah. There is a gentleness, an insistence, and a kind consideration of what is desirous and comforting to us according to our human tastes. Grain, wine, milk, and water are offered to those who seek that which truly satisfies. "Rich fare" will be signs that the "everlasting covenant" remains as God's relational presence with Israel. Those "benefits" of caring and inclusion are still God's attitude towards God's people.|The Gospel is quite familiar to us. Matthew pictures Jesus' desiring to go off by Himself to mourn personally over the beheading of John the Baptist, His Precursor. The crowd, the "uninvited" follow Him to His praying place and when Jesus sees them they become the "invited". His spirit moves from grieving to receiving, from His personal loss to their collective need for personal healing.|After the inclusion by Jesus of the crowd comes the invitation. It is near evening and the crowds have hunger. After a little verbal testing by Jesus of the Disciples, Jesus takes the five loaves and two fish, blesses them and gives them back to the Disciples for distribution. There is more food available so that all are satisfied.|I sometimes reflect on the phenomenon of tears. One word, one phrase can tip the eye-bucket and the holy water of tenderness begins blessing our cheeks. The Greek word which Matthew uses, and is translated as" moved with pity" is splanchnon. It means literally the inner organs of the body where emotions, such as pity, reside. We might say, as does the text, the "heart."|The Stoics thought that the highest virtue was the ability not to be moved at all by any human experiences. Matthew presents Jesus, here and in other passages, not as a Stoic, but a human Who is the Son of God, but who continues to be moved from deep inside Him as He encounters the human family.|This is obviously a prefigurement of the Eucharistic sharing Jesus will celebrate at the Last supper, but also an invitation. This is more than an early endorsement of "Extraordinary Ministers of the Eucharist". As Jesus hands back to the Disciples the bread and fish they had given Him, Jesus is also ordaining them to distribute in their lives the bread of deeply-felt compassion.|We are being included and invited ourselves as disciples who extend His embrace.
University Ministry, Creighton University.
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