God Multiplies What We Give Him
User's Guide to Sunday, Aug. 3
Sunday, Aug. 3, is the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A).
Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21
Today’s Gospel is the story about the multiplication of the loaves — and it shows the way Jesus always works in our lives.
In his book of meditations on the Gospel of Matthew, Erasmo Leiva-Merkikakis (now a Trappist monk, he is known as Father Simeon) points out how inconspicuous the miracle is.
Jesus doesn’t want to make a spectacle of what he is doing. Rather, he chooses a way of doing the miracle so that you almost wouldn’t notice it: He takes five loaves that are offered and breaks them to hand to his disciples, who bring them to the people.
No one disciple gets to see the full miracle, and the crowds could easily miss it altogether.
This is the quiet way Jesus always works: He accepts the small, inadequate gifts we offer him and quietly makes them greater than they were in such a way that we do not recognize the full impact of what he is doing.
We see it in so many ways:
We give him hosts at Mass; he gives us back himself.
We give him our sins in confession; he gives us back forgiveness.
We give him mere hours of prayer; he gives us back eternity.
Ultimately, of course, the notion that we "give" anything to God is untrue. Even the bread that was offered to him in the Gospel was a gift from God in the first place.
Today’s first reading from Isaiah stresses the utter gratuity of everything we have.
"You who have no money, come; receive grain and eat," writes Isaiah. "Come, without paying and without cost; drink wine and milk."
The second reading shows the gratuity of God’s spiritual gifts. They come from his sovereign hand and cannot be taken away: "What will separate us from the love of Christ? Will anguish or distress or persecution or famine or nakedness or peril or the sword? No, in all these things, we conquer overwhelmingly through him who loved us."
Our good works are ultimately not our own. They are his.
But when we give what is his back to him, he responds with even greater blessings.
We recently traced the ripples of grace we have seen in God’s action in our own lives. Childhood friends helped direct Tom to the St. Ignatius Institute, a Catholic Great Books program. God took that and made an enormous change in Tom’s life — and reached others through him.
April directed childhood friends toward the faith. As a result, a priestly vocation touching literally hundreds of thousands of people resulted, as well as the many fruits of a Catholic family.
Through our own personal efforts to pass on the faith to our children, we see beautiful grace resulting: missionary efforts and evangelization that we never asked for and never would have imagined.
The math seems to work this way again and again: Our effort minus God equals nothing — but our effort plus God equals infinity.
Tom and April Hoopes write from Atchison, Kansas,
where Tom is writer in residence at
- July 27-Aug. 9, 2014