Homily – 18th Sunday Ordinary Time A 8/3/8
Our Gospel begins today with Jesus getting the tragic news of the death of John the Baptist.
And hearing of the passing of the one Jesus called the greatest man ever born of a woman must have deeply affected Our Lord in His Sacred Humanity. Jesus, being fully Human as well as fully God, would certainly have experienced, on an emotional level, the grief you and I feel when someone we love dies. In fact, being a perfect Human, Christ while on earth would have grieved even more deeply than we would have, just as He would have loved others more deeply than we can ever love.
And we see Jesus expressing His grief over the death of John the Baptist by all His subsequent actions in this Gospel.
First, Jesus wishes to be alone and away from the crowds for a while, so he can pray and reflect on John’s life. And what better place to reflect on the life of John the Baptist than the water! He gets into a boat, and as the boat pulled away from the shore, Jesus must have remembered those days John spent by the banks of the Jordan River; He must have remembered the day of His own Baptism by the hand of John.
And thinking of all these things, Jesus must have then said “I think I’ll sail off to a deserted place in the wilderness, and disembark there.” The wilderness with it’s locusts and wild honey bees would also hold its own memories of John, who was the Voice crying out in the wilderness: “Prepare the way of the Lord.”
And as Our Lord sailed across the Sea of Galilee, as He gazed out over the water, His thoughts must have reflected on all the many ways John the Baptist prepared the People for His own coming. For John’s whole life, from his conception to his death, was a foreshadowing and preparation and warm up for Jesus’ whole earthly life and death.
Jesus’ miraculous conception was announced by the Angel Gabriel to His Mother Mary, but before that happened, John’s miraculous conception was announced by the same angel to John’s father, Zechariah.
Jesus was born of a young, newly married virgin, but before that happened, John was first born of an old, long time married childless woman.
At Jesus’ birth, the Heavens would break their silence as the angels sang out “Glory to God in the Highest and peace to men of good will;” But prior to that, John’s father Zechariah would break his imposed silence and sing out “Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel, He has come to His people and set them free.”
Jesus would preach “Repent, the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand!” but only after John had got the crowds warmed up with the same challenging message of conversion;
Jesus would Baptize the people with the Holy Spirit and fire, but only after John had first Baptized them with water for repentance.
“And now,” Jesus might have reflected as He sailed along that day, “John has been arrested, and executed. Yes, it won’t be long now before I myself am arrested and put to death by Crucifixion.”
And as his boat neared the shore, Jesus might have said to Himself “Yes, John the Baptist, you did very well in preparing the people for the coming of my Kingdom to Earth in every way — but one.
“There’s one major thing you weren’t able to prepare them for. And it’s one major thing that they need to be prepared for. But rest in peace John — I will be like you, and prepare them myself for this major work I will later do.”
And with thoughts of his late great cousin fresh in His mind, Jesus disembarks from the boat, and feeds a crowd of 5000 families with five loaves of bread and a couple fish.
The one time miracle of the multiplication of the loaves in the wilderness was a foreshadowing, John the Baptist style, of the ongoing Miracle of the Holy Eucharist Jesus would institute at the Last Supper, a miracle we will re-present in a few moments on this Altar.
And just as Jesus that day healed and taught and gave rest and satisfaction to each person who made the time and effort to follow Jesus into that wilderness, so Jesus now at every Mass heals and teaches and gives rest and satisfaction to each and every person who takes the time and effort to leave the world for a while and spend time with Him in God’s House.
And just as Christ that day took the bread the disciples gave Him, and looking up to Heaven, blessed and broke it and after that it was able to feed the multitude with it; So Jesus today takes the gift we give Him of ourselves, and after taking us in His arms He looks up to Heaven, blesses us with His grace, and breaks us with His Holy Cross.
And after Jesus has blessed and broken us, He is then able to use us to feed the multitudes in the world with His Holy Gospel.
He is then able to make us His forerunners, His modern day John the Baptists, who prepare the way of the Lord in our world.