July 26, 2015 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Reading I 2 Kings 4:42-44
Reading II Ephesians 4:1-6
Gospel John 6:1-15
For the next six weeks we are going to hear the Gospel of John and the entire chapter is all about the bread of life. Something that is very interesting is that the story in this chapter, other than Jesus’s death and resurrection, is the only story told in all four Gospels by all four evangelists. So tonight you and I have to say, “Wow. Six weeks of this.” We might start off by realizing that the evangelist John uses the word “sign” rather than “a miracle.” He’s doing that to illustrate for us that we should not put our emphasis on the miracle, we should place our emphasis on the One who is doing the miracle. This is the Son of God. And only because he is the Son of God, and we know he is the Son of God, that we understand the signs and the miracles in our own lives.
Think for a moment: How often do you say to yourself, “I am completely satisfied. I enjoy the house I have, I am satisfied with my health, there is some food around here, I am satisfied with my friendships.” You really cannot look in the mirror and say that too often because so often in our lives we are not satisfied. Yet, Jesus says, “I don’t understand why you are not satisfied because I am giving you signs all over the place — that I love you and, that I will provide for you. So why aren’t you satisfied?”
It’s a good question for us — spiritually why aren’t we satisfied? You may ask, “What is it I really want from God that he’s not giving me?” Or maybe you need to turn that around and say, “Maybe I am not seeing the sign that God is giving me to be satisfied. What did I really do to bring that into my life?”
We can list all the clichés: “Well, if I pray a little more, if I go to church, if I am kind to my neighbor.” Jesus says, “Yeah. That’s what you are supposed to do. But I want to know what will it take for me to satisfy you, and to let you know that you are completely loved, that you have no fears in life and that everything in your life, in the end, is going to turn out for the better.”
That’s a rather difficult prescription to have filled and to take every day because you and I are just who we are. Sometimes we don’t understand that if we just step out of the box, and I am assigned to someone not only will it change my life, but also it will change that person’s life.
Here is a neat little story I like to tell. A parish was having a picnic and everybody was invited to come and to bring food for their family. This little boy, who was about 10 years old, was going to have to go to the picnic by himself because the rest of the family couldn’t make it. When he looked in the refrigerator there really wasn’t much there, but he found a crust of break and some ham, put together a sandwich, and wrapped it up in wax paper.
When he arrived at the picnic he looked around and saw that everyone else had someone with them, but he did not. He was alone. He saw this bench and empty picnic table and went over and sat down. Shortly after, a family came and sat down at the table. They put down a tablecloth, set out plates, and started bringing out one dish after another. The little boy thought, “Wow. All I have is my ham sandwich. Why did I sit at this table? Do I dare even open my sandwich?”
But then the mother of the family came over to him and said, “Since you are alone, why don’t you join us.”
“Oh, no. I can’t do that.”
She said, “We would love to have you. What did you bring?”
“Well, I just have this sandwich.”
She said, “I’ll tell you what. We’ll take your sandwich and we will cut up the ham and the bread, and we will put it on a plate so everyone in my family can have a piece of your sandwich. And then you can have a part of everything we have. Wouldn’t that be nice?”
The boy said, “It sure would. But I’m kind of embarrassed.”
“You don’t need to be embarrassed,” the mother said. “There is enough food here not only for you and my family, but for others, so please come join us.”
So the little boy finally gave in and allowed his sandwich to be shared, and allowed himself to take from their table of plenty for himself.
That story is not about food. That story is about a sign. Jesus says, “When you and I share what we have — then we become Christ to each other.”
That family could have ignored the boy and said, “It’s too bad. That boy doesn’t have anything to eat.” But it made a big difference when they decided to share. So you and I have to ask ourselves, “What kind of a sign are we to each other?” And it’s not about food, it’s about opening up ourselves to another person who may be the most unlikely person we may ever talk to or visit, and we may never know how we will affect or change that person.
Jesus says, “The food is just a sign. What I am trying to get across to these five thousand people is that I am the bread of life. I am the savior of the world and if you have me in your life, and I accept everybody, you will always mingle with one another.”
So we might just think this week where God might put us and it just might click, “Oh, yes. I remember: The bread of life, the five thousand, the sign — I think God is giving me a sign. Maybe I’m supposed to do something. And when I do it, it’s not about me, or what I do. It is just that I let God work in my life.”
Last night I received a sign when I got a call from the hospital. They were not making a connection with any other parish and could I go to anoint someone. I said, “Sure.” I looked at my phone and the sign was coming from Blessing Hospital. I was told there was a man who had just left the hospital and was being taken to Good Samaritan Home. The hospital representative said, “If you could just go and anoint him.”
“Sure,” I said. “It’s right on the path. I’ll do that.”
When I got to Good Samaritan Home I asked at the front desk, “Do you have someone by this name who was admitted this evening?”
“Really,” I said. “I’m getting confused. I was told to come here.”
It took half an hour to straighten it all out. First, I called the hospital and said, “Could you please check your records. Here is the name, here is the information, was there such a person in the hospital, was he sent to Good Samaritan Home, that’s all you have to tell me.”
Well, they had to check various departments, and talked to several people, and they couldn’t tell me anything — it’s all backed up by HIPPA. Finally, the lady said, “We can’t find the person.” And I thought, “Something is going on here and I need to find this man. This has just got to work.”
I went back to my car and was sitting there, and then decided to go back in. I said, “Let’s try another name.” The lady sitting there said to me, “Father, I am so sorry. I apologize. I’m new at this desk and I thought you had left. I just found out the man was admitted late this afternoon and he is in this room.”
I said, “Praise God. At least I can go back home and sleep tonight. Where is this mysterious person?”
Well, all of that was a sign. When I walked into the room, as it turned out, someone from our parish was sitting there because she was related to the man. We have to realize there will be times in our lives when everything is so confused. Earlier, I had sat in my car and said, “God, I know I heard this right. What is wrong?”
This is just an example of a normal incident. You might ask, “Well, what is the sign here?” The sign here is that God did want that man to be anointed. The reality is that life is filled with confusion and sometimes it doesn’t always make sense, but in the end — if we trust in God — it is going to work out. In my great frustration I sat in my car and said, “Well, God, if you want this person anointed, I don’t know where else to go. You better help me with this.”
Low and behold, it all opened up. The man was anointed, I slept well last night, and the whole thing was taken care of.
So I am asking you, “Look for the signs in your life and know that God is involved in what you are doing. And it’s not about you, it’s about what is going on around you, and how God wants you to interact and make a difference.”
To see that man’s face when he was anointed. It was worth everything.
The little things that you and I do are the signs that there is a God and we are sharing God with each other. If we do that, you and I — we can feed five thousand people. More importantly, we can take care of each other.
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Monsignor Michael Kuse is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Parish in Quincy, Illinois.
(TASCAM DR 40 file 0006)