Homily — 17th Sunday OT B 7/26/09
Today’s Gospel begins with Jesus posing a question to one of his Apostles.
“Philip, where can we buy enough food for all these people to eat?”
Now, notice how Philip doesn’t say “You know Lord, I was just thinking the exact same thing!”
Philip probably wasn’t thinking at all about the needs of those around him before Jesus put the thought into his head.
More likely, Philip was thinking of his own needs and concerns, maybe thinking about what he was going to have for lunch, or how he was going to get any rest and relaxation and quality time with his friends with these thousands of people making all this racket around him.
But Jesus breaks through all these selfish thoughts and forces Philip to think beyond his own needs.
And my brothers and sisters, it’s not long after we start to follow Jesus that He begins to put thoughts into our heads and hearts that force us to look beyond our selfish needs and wants.
It’s not long after we start to follow Jesus that He begins to ask us things like “How are we going to feed all these hungry people in our city, and in other parts of the world? Or, How are we going to end this or that particular injustice against innocent human life?”
Or, Jesus starts to put other questions into our hearts like “How are we going to forgive that person who really hurt us?”
Or “How are we going to overcome that sin we keep falling into?”
Questions that only Jesus could have put in our hearts, that we would never have thought of if he didn’t put it there.
And like Philip, our initial response to Jesus’ questions is “It is humanly impossible what you ask us to do, Jesus. We don’t have enough resources to the thousands of hungry men and their wives and children.”
“We don’t have the political power to overturn human rights abuses.”
“We don’t have the strength to forgive that person, or the willpower to overcome that sin.”
To which Jesus answers “I didn’t ask you ‘How are you going to do it?’ I asked ‘How are we, you and I, the Lord of Heaven and Earth, going to do it?’!”
A little later in John’s Gospel, at the Last Supper Jesus will tell us “Apart from me, you can do nothing.”
We as individuals and as a society can do nothing apart from Jesus, but with Jesus we can do everything – nothing is impossible for he who has faith says the Lord.
In some ways this is the main point of Our Holy Father Pope Benedict’s new Encyclical Letter Caritas in Veritate, which came out earlier this month.
The Pope is reminding people that all the many challenges the world faces, whether it’s third world poverty or the financial crises in America and Europe, these challenges cannot be solved apart from the Truth which is Jesus Christ and His Gospel.
With Jesus, we can feed the hungry, make peace with our enemies, overcome sin and injustice, even solve difficult economic problems.
So the next time we are going about our business, and Jesus puts on our hearts something that seems impossible, may we say to him “Jesus, how can we, you and I and the rest of your people, do what you are asking us to do?”
We will be as surprised as the Apostles were when we see what Jesus will do next.