Jesus Our Shepherd

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
29 July 2012

Homily
Rev. Kathy Sullivan Vandenberg

God is telling us wonderful news in the readings for today. “The hand of God feeds us and answers all of our needs”. At times we really need to hear this Palm response because life can get very difficult.

In the first reading a man brought Elisha a small amount of food to feed the crowd. And, lo and behold the people were fed with extra left over. In the psalm we have heard that God feeds us and will take care of us. And then we have the Gospel that actually tells the story or parable that is so famous about God feeding over five thousand people, including woman and children. All four gospels tell this same story. It must have been very important to Jesus and for us to repeat and believe this story. There are small differences in each but the message is the same. It does not matter that the people sat in a desert or on a grassy hill side. It does not matter who had come. It is important to believe that God feeds us all.

I believe that this story can be interpreted as a miracle story. Or, did something else miraculous happen? In today’s story a boy who had five barley loaves and two fishes came to Jesus and his followers and offered the food he had. Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks. He also took the fish and gave thanks. The food was then distributed to the people. Did the food multiply and divide so that all of the people could eat? Did one fish appear after another? We do not know that for a fact.

Could it be that something more miraculous did happen? Did the people just sit there and wait for the food to come to them? Or did the people become active participants in the miracle by talking to one another and sharing the food they had brought with them? The people must have come prepared to listen to Jesus by each bringing their own food to eat. I think it is very possible that the people were engaging in sharing their own food with all of the people that had come.

I really like this second interpretation of the story when all of the people gave of what they had. This is what the Gospel message is all about - sharing what we have with one another.

Did you ever notice what happens when you come to a potluck supper? No one is assigned to what they should bring. Yet, when the food is served there is enough for all and all are fed. People are active in giving and giving in abundance. We all are active participants in the Gospel message.

If we can be active participants in giving physical food can we all be active in giving of ourselves through love, time, caring in other situations? I know we can and I have seen ourselves do just that. Just as there were leftovers of food on the grassy hill where Jesus was, there are always leftovers of love and kindness within us that we can share with one another.

Last weekend the shooting tragedy happened at a movie theater in Colorado. Many, many people gave of themselves to help other victims in the theater. Others continue today to give love, support, money and time to other citizens of Aurora freely and without being asked. Really the whole nation and world has reached out to the survivors of the shooting tragedy. I have seen such love and care and kindness to the victims and their families that I have been overwhelmed. I also have seen such love and kindness here in our parish of Jesus Our Shepherd when people have great needs. In spite of our own times of discouragement and grief we always seem to have enough to share with others.

One of my friends called this story the Multiplication of Love. And, this is what it truly is. Our sharing with one another cannot be limited to just the sharing of food or drink with one another. We need to share our whole selves with others. Can you remember some time when you needed help with problem and someone listened? Can you remember a time when you needed a little extra money and someone helped you? These are times when the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes should be remembered.

This story has renewed my hope again in God. My mother was just put in hospice. She has been in a nursing home for over a year. The family has been doing all that we can to keep her comfortable and feed her every day. Now that the hospice is helping in her care I am grateful to hear the story that God does take care of the ones God loves and will take care of my mother’s needs. Sometimes, as we go along, it is good to be reminded that all will be fed to meet our differing needs whether patient or caregiver. Giving others out of our abundance is certainly the Multiplication of Love.