Food for thought

By: Sister Michelle Rheinlander, OSB

Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Aug. 3

Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 145:8-9,15-16,17-18; Romans 8:35,37-39; Matthew 14:13-21

Our readings today tell us of a very personal God as he presents himself through the prophet Isaiah in pre-Christian days and in Jesus, who became one of us.

Each account presupposes that to reach God is to reach out to others. We can’t make the kingdom of God present by ourselves. Just as the disciples were told to give their food — and themselves — to the crowd, so are we.

Our readings all deal with the implication of relationships. They do not view humans as obstacles to that union with God, but rather as the very condition for that union.

In the first reading, the prophet Isaiah tells us the Lord shows his love for his people by renewing the everlasting covenant — the relationship between the Lord and David and God’s chosen people. Isaiah advises us “to listen (to his teaching) that we may have life.”

We are good at listening, but how do we follow up and live those teachings? We can start by taking a look in the mirror. Just think of all that is involved from the time we rise to the time we retire. How often do we give a thought to Jesus as we do our jobs, interact with others, live in our families, watch television, have an evening out, and just live? Do we let any of this separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Our Lord?

Paul asks that question and it is one for people of every age. He is convinced that nothing — neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor persecution, nor famine, nor time, nor any creature — will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus, Our Lord.

Even our psalm presents the Lord as a king who gives food to his people at the needed time.

Each of these readings refers to food in one way or another and its importance in any interaction. Jesus often met that basic need then and continues to do so to this very day. We come empty-handed but soon receive the gifts of God. Not only are we given food for our body and
soul as were the followers of Jesus, but our vision and understanding are broadened as we bring Israel, Paul and Matthew into the 21st century.

Having realized that we love our God in and through those around us, we would do well to ask ourselves if we are loving well!

It is obvious when the crowds go out to meet Jesus they are not concerned with his need. It is Jesus whose heart is filled with pity for their needs as he cures the sick, blesses the infants and children, and feeds all with bread and fish — a common peasant’s meal in Galilee. Not only was there enough for the 5,000 men recorded plus women and children, there were 12 baskets of leftovers.

The readings today move our reflections about God’s kingdom out of the Gospel and into our everyday lives.

We have the capacity and inner strength helped by the Spirit who dwells in us to reach out of ourselves for the sake of another. What the disciples cannot do alone — feed the hungry crowd — they can do with Jesus’ blessings. Relying on the Lord, we must do the same.

A former educator and pastoral minister, Sister Michelle Rheinlander, OSB, is now engaged in a ministry of writing at St. Mary Monastery in Rock Island.

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