#Silence is the podcast for August 2, 2020. Jesus cannot get a moment of silence without people pestering him. See his answer and LISTEN HERE FREE and find out more: Download it into your phone. #Matthew14 #Feeding5000 #Eucharist #Compassion
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For listener supported My Spiritual Advisor, this is Fr. Mark Kurowski with a reflection for Sunday, 8/2/2020 The 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time.
Please pause this audio and read Matthew 14:13-21.
Silence! (In a whisper) Silence. (Pause)
The place where Christians go, and should go, every day, is silence. We should turn off the electronic devices, go somewhere where there are no conversations or debates. There should be a holy place, a chair, a spot in a room in our home, or somewhere, where we are separated from the hustle of our day. Just as Elijah ascended Mount Horeb and encountered God in the sheer sound of silence, so, we, daily should go to the place of silence we have set aside for prayer.
We know that we should set aside a place for silence for prayer, because that is what we find our Lord Jesus doing in this passage from the Gospel of Matthew and in various other places in the Gospels. The Transfiguration, the Garden of Gethsemane on the Mount of Olives before his Passion, and here, in the feeding of the more than 5,000, are three big spots where we find the Lord retreating. In fact, although we do not know where they are geographically, we know that the Lord left the crowds in a boat and went to a deserted place.
I can relate. When I had a house full of kids and a wife, I loved to blow snow. It was the one thing I could do for 45 minutes where no one would say, “Dad, I need you.” It was amazing how, in the freezing cold, and numbing snow, no one wanted to help me, talk to me, or interrupt me. (funny…) So, going away to a deserted place to pray makes perfect sense.
Deserted places in the Scriptures are places where we go to commune with God and fight off demons, on purpose. Jesus was going away to a deserted place because he had just heard that his cousin and fore runner of the Gospel, John the Baptist, had just been beheaded because King Herod was so sexually attracted to his step-daughter that he had John’s head cut off because she asked. His cousin John was dead.
After Jesus is off in the boat, his followers set out on foot to find him. They walk around the lake to find him. When they do, he is not irritated. He is compassionate. I know that when I hear bad news and want to be alone, it actually can be irritating to have people come and want something from me. Yet, when I have been alone in a deserted place with the Lord, my resources are replenished. It doesn’t say that in this passage, and we are talking about the Lord our God in the flesh, but his humanity is often weary. Yet, renewed it seems, he has compassion on those who search for him.
The Lord has compassion on us who search for him. We are not a bother. We are not a burden. We are welcomed. So, the Lord welcomes us, but those around him look at the desolate place and think from a mindset of scarcity. It is as if the storehouses of heaven run out of blessings! Which, they do not. My brethren, the way the disciples react to the Lord’s compassion is the same way that the Hebrew people reacted to the Mana in the desert. You remember those guys, right?
“Oh, if only we were still slaves in Egypt, beaten by our masters, given impossible tasks so we would fail, but we had flesh pots from which to eat! But give us slavery and captivity, for which we WAILED to you when we were there!” This is no different than what the apostles say, “this is desolate, the hour is late, send them away to find food in some village somewhere.”
I remember at St. Raphael’s, as we were planting that church, first they worried if anyone would show up for Mass in the park. We had up to 26 people at times. Then they worried if we would find a place to worship inside by the winter. By October 1, we had probably the best possible place: a community center that was built like a small church. Then they worried that we would not have enough money to pay the rent for the building. We were given a deal if we were consistent and the offerings grew and grew. All the while, I would say, “the Lord provided from five loaves and two fish,” he will provide for us. He did. When I came to Christ the King, St. Raphael was not a failing mission.
Why do we, as people who love the living God, doubt his mission? Why do we get caught up in our flesh, the physical, and do not see what he is doing spiritually through the physical? The physical body is the emblem and symbol of what is going on with our spiritual personhood. What we do in our body is what we do in our soul. What we do in our soul, is what we do in our body. If we doubt the ability of God in our heart, or in our body, it will show, just as it did for those who were just delivered by a Column of Fire and a Parting Red Sea.
Come on, man! Who do we think we serve?
It is Jesus who has us serve, in our doubt, to amazing results. He has them take those five loaves and two fish and serve the five thousand men, with the women who were there, and the children present. We are talking nearly 10,000 people or maybe even more. No, this was not an instance where everyone was moved to pull out their bag of goodies and share at his generosity. This was a mighty act of God that replicated the message to the Hebrews who wandered the desert after being liberated by the hand of God. It demonstrates to the people, that Jesus, too, can provide bread from heaven, like the oil jar that did not run out on Elisha’s widow. It shows that Jesus is God’s Son and that he provides.
What is interesting is that as he went off to pray like we should, he also does the four fold movement of the Eucharist we celebrate every Sunday. He takes, blesses, breaks, and gives. That is the four fold movement of the Eucharist: Take, bless, break, and give. We take the bread during what we call the “Preparation of the Gifts”. That is where the celebrant says, “Blessed are you, Lord God of all creation…”
We Bless in the Sursum Corda, the Preface, and the Eucharistic Prayer. ‘Sursum Corda’ means “lift up your hearts” in Latin. I think you know where that is. The Preface starts out with, “It is right and good, and a joyful thing, always and everywhere to give you thanks, Father Almighty…” and ends with “Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord…”
The Eucharistic Prayer starts with us asking the Holy Spirit to make these gifts holy and then we bless it by the “Words of Institution” which are “He took bread, blessed it, broke it, and gave it to his disciples saying, Take. Eat. This is my Body.” All of these parts: the Preparation of the Gifts, the Sursum Corda, the Preface, and the Eucharistic Prayer are all the second part, the blessing part, of this fourfold pattern of take, bless, break, and give.
Then we do what he did: he broke bread, we break his body. When we sing “Lamb of God, you take away the sins of the world,” the priest breaks the body of Christ to share with us. It is representative of the breaking of his body on the Cross. It is also, emblematic of the bread here broken to feed the more than 5,000 and the manna that fell from heaven, broken and given.
Then, the apostles give the bread. Just like we come down from the altar and feed you, the body of Christ. The bread which is his body is the bread which multiplies loaves wherever you go, in ways you testify to the saving act of Jesus Christ for the world.
We ought not doubt the ability of Jesus to multiply in us the bread which is his Body. We ought not doubt the provision of the Lord in desperate times. We ought not doubt the need to go off in desolate places to pray and hear him. We ought not doubt.
As the Lord provided manna to the recently freed Hebrews slaves in the desert and gave them 12 extra baskets in the desolate place where over 5,000 were, we, in these desolate times, should not doubt our Lord. We should, as the people did, walk around the lake to meet him in the breaking of the bread.
Who doesn’t want to take a walk around a lake? Right? We have Minnewaska, right? Who doesn’t want take a walk around the lake to meet the Lord? Who doesn’t want to meet the Lord in the desolate places of our lives? Who doesn’t want to have him broken and given to us so that we are part of him walking out into a broken world?
Before I make this final point, I need to let you know, the whole Liturgy of the Eucharist, from the Preparation of the Gifts to the Lamb of God is considered a single prayer. It is a prayer that we believe bears fruit in the Body and Blood of Christ, the Eternal Bread Come Down from Heaven, which we take and eat, as part of the more than 5,000 who walk around the lake of life. He is given to us men, women, and children to be fed and filled when we meet him in the desolate places of our lives.
So, come meet the Lord in the Eucharist this day. Bring your deserted places. Bring your brokenness. Bring your thirst for his comfort, his provision, his love. Then, in the moment of silence when you take his body and place him on your tongue, lift your deepest desire, your most ardent prayer to him because in that moment, the Lord isn’t bothered by you. He isn’t wearied by you. No. He has compassion for you. Come and see.
May God bless the preaching of this Gospel in the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.
This audio is under the copyright of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated and may not be used, reduplicated, or distributed for commercial use without the express written consent of My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated. My Spiritual Advisor, Incorporated, 2020.
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Mark Kurowski, M.Div.
Spiritual Director, Author, Blogger, Podcaster, Theologian