Sunday August 2, 2020 The 18th Sunday Ordinary time (Cycle A)
The tie in between today’s readings: Partnering up with God
Our reading in Psalm 145 reminds us of God’s goodness over His creation. The Almighty provides everything that we need in this life. The Lord is the One who allows us to make a living (Deuteronomy 8:18). He is the One who prospers us in blessings and guides us in relationships. But it’s a partnership that requires work. It doesn’t just happen. God feeds the sparrows, but it’s the early bird that gets the worm. He is gracious and open to our requests, but usually we find that God helps those who help themselves when answering prayers. I asked the Lord for a million dollars; He sent me a 401k application. Well and good, but, if God only provided for our worldly needs here and now, if this life was all there was, even if we lived as kings, death would take us and, as the book of Ecclesiastics points out, our existence would be meaningless. Fortunately, it’s not that way.
In Isaiah 55:1-3, the prophet, speaking for the Lord, takes this physical life and projects it to the next level. In verse 2, he reminds us that a worldly focus is never enough. No matter how much money we have or what we spend it on, it can never fulfill our inner hunger for meaning. So, he shouts out in verse 1, “Hey, everybody! Listen! There are eternal things! Things that can satisfy the unmet needs of your souls the way bread fills your stomachs. Wonderful and delightful things of eternal life; more than enough for you. Our merciful God will grant them to you in a relationship with Him. Come and get your fill! Forget about your money! It’s no good here! These things are priceless!” Tragically, the spiritual invitation of Isaiah is easily missed. The message is foreign. It’s like trying to describe red to a blind man. Eternal realities are other worldly and need to be expressed in metaphors and symbolic demonstrations like miracles. Jesus faced the same difficulty when He fed the 5000 in today’s gospel, Matthew 14:13-21.
John the Baptist is dead. Jesus takes a boat ride with His disciples to a secluded place for a little alone time. Even there, the crowds are waiting for Him. The compassionate Lord forgets about Himself while He heals and teaches the masses. It’s late now and without a McDonald’s in sight, Jesus seizes on an opportunity to put Isaiah 55:1-3 into action. The disciples fail to grasp what Jesus is thinking. Nonetheless, He moves on with a little boy’s lunch and His miracle. The five thousand men plus women and children eat their fill and leave twelve baskets of leftovers for the disciples. With full stomachs, they camp out under the stars that night amazed over the day’s events. The next morning, they will chase Jesus down. He will try to take the miracle of the loafs and fishes to the next spiritual level like the one we saw in Isaiah 53. He will say, “Forget about last night’s dinner! There is something bigger and more important at stake! I am the Bread of Life and you must eat My flesh and drink My blood to gain real life…eternal life!” They all will leave Him. The now sighted blind man will look for the nearest town. The newly walking lame person will follow the path leading away and the former mute will mutter to himself asking what ever made him get involved with this crackpot Rabbi in the first place. They all will miss the point of His message! They were only in it for the here and now, and…for breakfast. Even the disciples will not understand, but they have the faith to stick it out and diligently search for the answers with Jesus. The spiritual life with God, like the physical life with Him, requires a working partnership to achieve anything blessed.
When it comes to this partnership with God, our reading in Romans 8:35-39 lets us know that there is good bad news and good good news. The good bad news is that, no matter what, nothing can separate us from the love of God. But love requires sacrifice. In our partnership with and in Christ, Jesus never leads us to do anything that he wouldn’t do Himself. He emptied Himself to join mankind. He put the needs of others over His own, even to the point of exhaustion. He drank the cup in the Garden. He let Himself be crucified. He died and rose again, all because of His love for us. Our Lord challenges us to do the same, to take up our cross and follow Him and whenever you pick up a cross it can only end one way. As it says in verse 36:
“For Your sake we are being put to death all day long;
We were considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”
But through the laundry list of tribulations, persecutions, famines, perils, angelic adversaries, powers, things present, things to come, whatever…nothing can separate us from the love of God in Jesus. Through the One who loved us and gave His life for us, we are the overwhelming conquerors! That is the good good news of Christ! That is the stuff of eternal life!
So, partner up with God for His blessings along with the tribulations that are bound to come as you follow Him (Mark 10:28-30). Take that step of faith into eternal life and a real relationship with God through His Son. As the Apostle Paul said in Romans 8:18:
18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory that is to be revealed to us.
And in 1 Corinthians 2:9:
“Eye has not seen, nor ear heard,
Nor have entered into the heart of man
The things which God has prepared for those who love Him.”
Give your heart to Jesus. Don’t be afraid! It’s all good!