July 31, 2020

Christ the Cornerstone

Whatever difficulties we face, God will provide

Archbishop Charles C. Thompson

“What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword? … No, in all these things we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Rom 8:35, 37-39).

The readings for next weekend, the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time, are especially good news in these troubled times. Summarized briefly, all three readings assure us that whatever difficulties we face, God will provide us with what we need.

In the first reading from the prophet Isaiah (Is 55:1-3), we hear words that may seem too good to be true: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat; Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!” (Is 55:1)

How is it possible that the Lord nourishes us with food and drink without requiring those who have no money to pay for it? Isaiah follows this statement with a caution: “Why spend your money for what is not bread; your wages for what fails to satisfy? Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare ” (Is 55:2).

We’re familiar with the saying, “God’s ways are not our ways.” This is evident in this first reading. Too often, we spend our money on things that can never really satisfy us, but God invites, and challenges, us to keep our priorities straight. If we turn to him, and trust in his abundant goodness, God will give us “our daily bread.”

St. Matthew’s Gospel (Mt 14:13-21) powerfully illustrates this principle. Jesus withdraws to a deserted place to mourn the death of John the Baptist, his cousin and the one who has prepared the way for Jesus’ ministry. The crowds follow him, and in his compassion Jesus welcomes them and cures those who are sick. When it was evening, the disciples approach him and say, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves” (Mt 14:15). Jesus replies, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves” (Mt 14:16). But they say to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here” (Mt 14:17).

We know how the story ends. Jesus performs one of his greatest miracles. With next to nothing, the meager provisions of five loaves and two fish, Jesus looks up to heaven, blesses the food and feeds an enormous crowd of people. “They all ate and were satisfied,” St. Matthew tells us, “and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children” (Mt 14:20-21).

Our worries about life’s day-to-day problems are understandable. Jesus doesn’t dismiss them. He is moved with pity and responds to our human needs. But as St. Paul tells the Romans, and all of us, in the second reading for this Sunday (Rom 8:35, 37-39), nothing we can think of can ever separate us from the love of Christ. Not COVID-19, not unemployment, not “anguish, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or the sword.” Nothing in the world, whether spiritual or material, can deny us the nourishment we receive from God through our Lord Jesus Christ.

Our job is to do two things: Trust in God and share what we have with others, especially those who are most in need of our help.

We’ve also heard the saying: “God helps those who help themselves.” Perhaps it would be more accurate if we said, “God helps those who help others.” As Sunday’s Gospel demonstrates, the miracle of the five loaves and two fish is both a testimony to God’s abundance and an admonition to take what little we have and share it generously with our sisters and brothers in need.

Why spend our money on things that can never satisfy us? How much better off we would all be if we placed our trust in God and shared his gifts with others!

“Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare” (Is 55:2), says the Lord who sees and has pity on our needs—whatever they may be. “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life. I will renew with you the everlasting covenant” (Is 55:3).

Let’s turn to God and ask him for whatever we need. He will hear and answer us. †

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