Sunday, July 31, is the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Liturgical Year A, Cycle I).
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21
Nothing works right without love. That is the message of Pope Benedict XVI’s most recent encyclical, Veritas in Caritate, and it is also one message of today’s readings.
No economic system can address the needs of every person in society without charity. No system of justice can balance the needs of immigrants and neighboring countries without charity. Ecology and human needs clash without charity.
Love “is the principle not only of micro-relationships (with friends, with family members or within small groups),” writes Pope Benedict XVI, “but also of macro-relationships (social, economic and political ones). For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because … ‘God is love.’”
Today’s Gospel shows how Jesus taught that lesson with his actions.
Confronted by large crowds in an out-of-the-way place, the disciples want to do the sensible thing —“dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.”
But Jesus applies love, not economics, to the problem: Jesus said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.”
He then takes the only five loaves and two fish they have, looks up to heaven, “blesses, breaks and gives” the bread to the disciples — what he does for us in the Eucharist — who then give it to the crowd. This addition of love to the equation has a dynamic effect. Here, love brings about a miracle. Love always solves intractable problems.
God is love, and so wherever there is love, there is God.
Jesus does not just feed the people. He overfeeds them. “They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over — twelve wicker baskets full.”
That sounds like the overabundant love of God described in the first reading: “You who have no money, come — receive grain and eat; come, without paying and without cost; drink wine and milk!”
God always deals with us that way. Everything was freely given to us. We are the ones who charge each other for what God gives freely.
The overabundant love of God isn’t just about material things, however. When he gives spiritual gifts, he also gives more than enough of the best gifts.
Read how St. Paul describes the gift of Christ’s love:
“Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
We don’t just receive the love of God in Christ. We receive an unstoppable, unassailable, invulnerable love of God.
So, who are we to count pennies, to worry about who is getting away with what and to measure out God’s gifts in dribs and drabs? To do so is to forget in whose image and likeness we were made.
Charity and only charity can solve the world’s problems — and only charity can solve ours.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at Benedictine College.