Homily 17th Sunday OT B July 30, 2006
Where can we buy enough food for them to eat? That was the question Jesus posed to the Twelve Apostles that day in the wilderness. And that was the question also on all Twelve of the Apostles mindâ€™s as they saw this great need before them of 5000 hungry people.
The human answer to that question was, of course, nowhere. For one thing, there was no super market in Palestine, nor any Wrightâ€™s Farm Restaurant that was equipped to feed 5000 people. And even if there was one, and it was nearby, Our Lord and the Apostles were broke. And what little money they had was being pilfered by Judas.
Forget too about people sharing their food with each other: the people had been so spellbound when Jesus suddenly came through their village that morning the last thing they thought of doing was to pack enough food for lunch and dinner. The only food left was five barley loaves and two fish, which a little schoolboyâ€™s mom packed him for lunch that morning, and which that fussy boy wasnâ€™t going to eat until he was starving.
So each of the Apostles asks himself “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat? Where in the world can we find a solution to the big problem that faces us?” And that question is really a question that all human beings since Adam have asked: “Where in the world can we find a solution to the huge problems that face us?”
In our world today, we could find a place to buy enough food to feed 5,000 hungry people. We could also find the money to buy that food probably. But the problems of ancient times seem small to us compared to the problems upon problems that we face today in the world, in our country, in our Church, and in our personal lives.
The world problems of wars on top of wars. Iraq, Iran, North Korea, now Israel and Lebanon. Not to mention the poor and hungry in many countries where thereâ€™s no war. “Where in the world are we going to find a solution?” We ask.
Then thereâ€™s national problems of rising oil prices, terrorist threats, growing national debt, social security running out, more hurricanes ahead, illegal immigration, bird flu! “Where can we buy an answer?” We ask.
We come to Church partly to take refuge for a time from the problems of the world in the house of God. But the Church also has her own set of huge problems we as Catholics can avoid: The internal Church problems of a whole generation of uncatechized and unchurched Catholics, shrinking Mass attendance throughout the western world, Church closings, clergy scandals, a shortage of priests, and the breakdown of the Christian family; Then thereâ€™s the external problems the Church faces today: the subtle but real anti-Catholicism in our culture, the growing threat to the Churchâ€™s freedom to express and live her beliefs in society, and the enormous challenge of forming consciences regarding the sanctity of human life from conception to natural death. And now the Church must deal with the movement in society to change the definition of marriage! Where in the world are we going to find a solution?
And finally, in our own lives, thereâ€™s no lack of personal problems we face on a daily basis at home, at work, and in the mirror. We look especially at the state of our souls and we see how much we are lacking in love, in courage, in faith. Where in the world am I going to find a solution to the huge problem which is my life?
To all these questions there are two wrong answers, and only one right answer.
Wrong answer number one is that we will never find an answer to our problems, not on earth or in heaven. Thereâ€™s no hope for mankind, throw in the towel. Eat and drink today, for tomorrow we die. God is either dead or He doesnâ€™t care. Every man for himself. This despairing, negative outlook is very prevalent in our culture today, to a greater or lesser degree. Even good Catholics can fall into this temptation to despair and apathy.
Wrong answer number two is that we will find all the answers to our problems right here on earth, using our own human ingenuity and without any help from God whatsoever. Science and education alone will solve every problem. We will eventually evolve into superior people.
People who think this way usually have either little or no use for religion, or else they think religion is whatâ€™s causing all the problems to begin with. This was the prevailing thought of the 20th Century, which ended up being by far the most barbaric and brutal of centuries history has seen.
And this whole push for embryonic stem cell research is yet another example of thinking we can solve the worldâ€™s problems apart from Godâ€™s law that all human life is sacred and inviolable. No, apart from God, we will only make more problems.
But we Christians believe there is a real answer to any problem life throws our way. The answer is Jesus Christ. Like that little boy with only five loaves and two fish, we give Jesus what little weâ€™ve got, and then in faith we let Jesus handle the rest.
Mankind alone canâ€™t solve the worldâ€™s problems; but mankind working along with God can. I alone canâ€™t solve my problems; but God and I together can. If we think that answer is pie-in-the-sky and too simplistic, we really donâ€™t have any faith, and we are really part of the problem.
For if we lived by faith in Christ, we would no only solve our personal problems, the problems of our Church, our country, and our world, but we would have 12 wicker baskets of blessings and riches left over for whatever the future holds.
As Christ feeds us today with His very Body and Blood in the Eucharist, may He give us the grace not to despair, and not to rely solely on our own power, but rather to have a deep and abiding faith that, as the Psalmist says in today’s Psalm, He will satisfy our every desire and answer all our needs.