Homily: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Year A)

Friends, note the order in which things unfold for Jesus today. Jesus has heard of the death of his cousin, John the Baptist. This is a moment of grief for him and his disciples. So they look for a place where they can be alone in their sadness. But the people around about find them. Jesus, putting aside his own personal struggles, turns toward their neediness in mercy, and offers himself to them: in teaching, in healing and – miraculously – in nourishing.

Note, also, the order in which things unfold for the disciples. Like Jesus, they heard of the tragedy of John’s death, they too experience the ache of grief, and they seek to find the space they need to mourn. Here is where the two stories begin to part.

Certainly, the disciples are with Jesus in reaching out to the people. We have a sense in which they are present in and among the crowds, perhaps ministering to them in their own ways. But when evening descends, the disciples are ready to part company with the gathered throng, seeking to again retreat with Jesus to a place where they can be by themselves.

This is not the way of Jesus. Instead of saying, I’ve done enough for today, he continues to see the need and he does what is necessary. There is no giving in to his own tiredness and grief; he keeps making himself present to the gathered people until they have received what they need for life.

This is salvation. Jesus goes beyond what is good and worthy to do, and offers what will complete the journey from death to life. He sees the possibility and makes it a reality.

Jesus did this in other ways as well. He offered the spiritual healing of forgiveness, when a physical healing was all that was asked for. He calmed hearts as he calmed storms. He touched the unclean, embraced the mentally ill, allowed his feet to be washed with tears, shared out his body and blood. And he went to the cross by himself, as the only one who would love us sinners to the very end.

Jesus fed the crowds with such abundance from so little because that was the manifestation of God’s saving promise needed at that moment among the people. Jesus, in all he said and did, always took the path from death to life, so that we might have life in him.

With that in mind, be certain of this: neither death nor life, no angel, no prince, nothing that exists, nothing still to come, not any power, or height or depth, nor any created thing, can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord. He will feed us with what we need for the nourishing of our lives.