Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Psalm 145; Matthew 14:13-21
The last few weeks we have had in our Gospel lessons parables of the Kingdom including the sowing of seeds, the care of crops, the harvest and separating of the wheat from the weeds, in this morning’s Gospel we have the feeding of the five thousand, although with the women and children it was probably more like eight or ten. What is the purpose of planting, cultivating, caring for and harvesting crops, if not to feed people? Whether we take this event at face value, that Jesus took the little that was offered, blessed it, and made it abundantly sufficient for all and/or as a type of the Eucharist, it is still about feeding people; physically, emotionally, spiritually, morally. It is neither an accident nor a coincidence that the most sacred and holy mystery of the Christian Church, the Eucharist, is a meal. It is symbolic of our relationship with the Triune God, a relationship of nurturing and sustaining love. God feeds us, gives us himself as food, we receive the very life of God under the form of bread and wine, and we, in turn, feed others, offering them the Bread of Life in the Word of God. The problem can be that no matter how hungry someone is, they can still be a picky eater. Still preferring, as the Prophet Isaiah says, to spend their money for what is not bread and their wages for what does not satisfy. As so many in our society are addicted to junk food that does not nourish their bodies, but only feeds their passions – so are many addicted to junk spirituality, junk religion, unsatisfying substitutes for the Reality and Truth of Jesus Christ. One of the most effective and insidious strategies of the evil one is to convince people that there is no difference. As we have been convinced for decades by Madison Avenue that margarine is as good as and better for us than real butter, we have also been convinced that any path purporting to lead to God is as good as any other, it doesn’t matter which one we take. Tell that to the tares that were thrown on the fire, or to the trash brought up in the dragnet that was thrown out as useless. It does matter, and it matters eternally. And it matters right now.
St. Paul writes in his letter to the Church at Rome, “Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Trial, or distress, or persecution, or hunger, or nakedness, or danger, or the sword?” The answer, of course, is none of these can separate us from the love of Christ, but we can separate ourselves. We can turn our backs on the invitation to the Messianic banquet, we can refuse to eat at the table of the Lord. We can choose, as many around us do, to consume the lie, to live on falsehood, to feast on emptiness.
The world is starving, figuratively, literally, physically, spiritually – starving amidst plenty. Someone said, I don’t know who, on one of the food blogs I read, that human beings are the only animal that doesn’t know what it is supposed to eat. That is true on many levels, and it is true for the same reason. We don’t know what food to eat because we have lost the wisdom and traditions of our ancestors; we don’t know what to believe about God because we have lost the wisdom and traditions of our ancestors in the faith. That is the great treasure, the pearl without price of the Orthodox Faith – we have not lost that wisdom, it is here and now, as fresh and new and alive as it was for the Apostles, it is real food and drink for those who are hungry. Again from the Prophet Isaiah, “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat.” As the Church it is our duty, our responsibility and our joy to share the True Bread of our Faith with the world. But we must accept, as a tragic reality, that it will often be refused. We cannot shove it down people’s throats, but we must continue to offer it in humility, in love, patiently, kindly, trusting to God’s care the seeds we plant.
We are celebrating today the Celtic Quarter Feast of Lammas, the Harvest Feast. We are the workers for the Lord’s harvest, and we are the harvest itself, every soul who chooses the Truth of Christ is gathered for the Kingdom of God. As he did with the five loaves and two fish, Our Lord can take whatever we can offer for his work, bless it, and make it richly abundant, no matter how little it is. So do not be discouraged and remember that, “…in all this we are more than conquerors because of him who has loved us.”
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