Monday of the Eighteenth Week in Ordinary Time
I enjoy cooking. I particularly enjoy making meals and food to share with others. The shopping, the preparation, the baking and cooking- all of it is done with a sense of giving of myself to others. God, in a much bigger and better way likes to feed us. Both readings today describe how God provides physically for the people of Israel and for the multitudes following Jesus. Maybe God knows that one of the best ways to a person’s heart is through the stomach! The food we prepare to share with others is given in love. In the same way, it is not the food that God gives that entices us into relationship with Him, but it is the love that is expressed through the generous giving of Himself.
In the first reading, we hear the story of the Israelites wandering in the desert. Because of their demands, God has given manna every day to help provide food. Unfortunately, that is not enough. The children of Israel continue to lament, “Would that we had meat for food! We remember the fish we used to eat without cost in Egypt, and the cucumbers, the melons, the leeks, the onions and the garlic.” Moses is distraught by their complaints and questions why God has treated him so badly that Moses has “to carry this people by myself.” God responds in loving kindness by providing quail to add to the meals of the Israelites. Although God could have retaliated in anger for the lack of gratitude, God instead responds with mercy and compassion. There is not condemnation, but an added effort to provide comfort to the people.
In the gospel, Jesus tries to withdraw to a deserted place, but a large crowd follows. He has great pity on them and provides healing and mercy. The disciples recognize the need to provide food, and all they can offer is five loaves and two fish. Jesus takes this simple food and blesses it, so it can provide abundantly for all those in need. Again, Jesus meets the physical needs of the crowd and in this generous way illustrates His great love for each of them. The abundance of the food- with fragments of twelve baskets remaining- is indicative of the abundance of God’s love for His creation.
God feeds us as well. Certainly God provides the earth, the dirt, plants, fish, and animals that provide the nutrition that we need physically. But even greater than this, Jesus gives Himself as physical food that provides spiritual nourishment. In the Eucharist, Jesus shares His Body and Blood through the bread and wine we consume. Jesus promises us that this food will bring us into deeper relationship with Him, the Father and the Spirit. Our reception of Jesus in the Eucharist reminds us that He is with us in our passions and our dying as well as our joys and our strengths. We are not alone- Jesus is with us and in us. The fact that He has experienced what it means to be human allows Him to walk with us in solidarity and love. There could be no finer food for our journey! How wonderful that God uses this physical expression of food to give Himself to us. Maybe He really does know that one of the best ways to our hearts is through our food!
After God gives us food, we are sent forth to share our “food” with other. This is not just sharing a meal or a plate of cookies, but this is the loving gesture of a phone call or a listening ear. Our food is the love we share in the ways we care for others and show them our mercy and compassion. When we give ourselves in this way, we are being like Jesus. We become the food that brings Christ to our very hungry world!
Loving Father, You show us Your love for us through the many blessings you provide. Jesus gives Himself to us, so we can become one with You. Through Your Spirit may our reception of Jesus’ body and blood be a source of grace and mercy, so we can take Your presence and blessings to the world around us. We pray this in Christ’s name. AMEN