Homily, 26 July 2015, Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
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Homily, 26 July 2015Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time2 Kings, 4:42-44; Psalms 145:10-11,15-16,17-18; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15—————My house sits on the top of a ridge on the north side of our subdivision. Behind my house is a greenway, which is really part of the rough along the golf course fairway. Most of my neighbors mow the section behind their property, but I let mine grow. The grass is tall and the seed-heads have turned brown. Scattered here and are some wildflowers – weeds to some people.Recently, someone asked me why I didn’t mow it. “I like it,” was all I said … but I’ve thought about that question many times since then.I like it because I grew up in this part of the country. When I was little, I spent part of my summers out in the Sandhills. In high school I worked as a surveyors assistant. About half our work was in rural areas around Omaha. I’ve spent a lot of time in grassy fields One of my earliest experiences of contemplation, of becoming suddenly aware of God’s presence, happened in a field of grass. I was sitting on a hilltop looking out over a lake. I had gone there by myself, just to get away from things and sit quietly. Nothing dramatic happened, but after awhile, I had a feeling of deep peace and of great stillness and I knew that God was with me.“The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want;he makes me lie down in green pastures.”How should I have answered that question? “Tall grass reminds me of God.”————— “Have the people recline,” Jesus told his disciples, for there was a great deal of grass in that place. When John wrote the Gospel passage we just read, he wanted us to see who Jesus was. He brings to mind those scriptures that tell of the presence of God: Jesus spoke from the mountain, he made the people recline in the grass, he provided enough barley loaves to satisfy everyone’s hunger, and he instructed his disciples to gather the fragments left over. It’s the same message we heard in the Psalm: “The Lord is near to all who call upon him … he answers all our needs.”—————It should have been such a peaceful scene there on that mountainside, but there seems to have been a lot of anxiety as well … and Jesus is the one who set it in motion:“Where can be buy enough food for all these people?” he asked Philip. I imagine that Jesus had to work to keep from smiling – or even laughing – as he said it.But it’s not just Philip and Andrew, who were anxious: the people were as well – five thousand of them! They had pursued Jesus. They were anxious about being healed. They were anxious about holding on to Jesus and making him a king.Fr. Ronald Rolheiser has said that the opposite of faith is not so much unbelief as it is anxiety and fretless worry. When we are anxious, when we worry needlessly, we say in essence “God has either forgotten us, or is powerless to help us.”Faith, on the other hand, tells us that God is still in-charge and has not forgotten us. Most importantly, faith tells us that God is not absent, but is with us. He was there on that mountainside with all those people. He was there on that grassy hilltop with me. He is with us now.Once in a while his presence is very tangible … but usually we must have faith that God is with us in the midst of our troubles, our sickness, our loneliness and our dying. Through faith we believe in the promises of GodWe must have faith, but we also shouldn’t spend our lives sitting on a mountainside eating bread, or on a hilltop looking out at the world.Faith should not lead us into passivity, but away from anxiety and toward a life that is fruitful. Nothing God gives should be wasted, but should be put to good use.“Gather the fragments left over”, said Jesus to his disciples, “so that nothing will be wasted.”—————If you read a few more verses beyond where our Gospel reading ends, you will see that neither the disciples nor the people overcame their anxiety. They really hadn’t grasped the lesson from the mountain: God cares for us and he is always present. But we are more fortunate. We aren’t caught up in the moment as they were. John has written down the events of that afternoon and we have time to sit ponder the words and the signs. If we understand their meaning, what should we do with that knowledge? How should we act?God has given us many blessings, more than we can use, and like the leftover bread, they are not to be wasted nor hoarded. We have to gather them up and use them in service of others. The blessing you receive from God, must manifest themselves by your works of mercy, based on the particular gifts you have received. If God has blessed you with a sense of justice or an energetic disposition, then feed for the hungry, clothe the naked, and shelter the homeless.If God has blessed you with a compassionate heart then counsel the doubtful and comfort the sorrowful.If God has blessed you with an understanding of the faith and a desire to teach, then instruct the ignorant and admonish the sinner.If your personality or your circumstances makes it hard for you to do for others, then pray for the living and the dead.—————Now these are fine words, but we all get anxious from time. If Fr. Rolheiser is right, that anxiety can cripple our faith, what are we do?To overcome – and prevent anxiety – we have to spend time with God.Don’t forget that blessings from God are also an invitation. God is inviting us to spend time with him … to grow deeper in our relationship with him.So if you are anxious, or circumstances are conspiring against you, return to that special place where you can be alone with God. It maybe in a special corner of your house, or in the Blessed Sacrament chapel, on your front porch … as for me … well, you know where that is: in my back yard, by the tall grass.