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We are recipients of God's providence, can share it

Published: February 15, 2023   
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor

The nuns who taught me in grade school were the Sisters of Divine Providence. They named their order after the Divine Providence because they believed that God would provide them whatever they needed to carry out their mission, but for us they were Sisters of Divine Providence for another reason as well: God used them to provide us with an excellent Catholic education. 

They taught us about God and our Catholic faith at the same time as they taught us reading, writing and arithmetic, which we also needed to learn. They were Sisters of Divine Providence in both these ways: 1) recipients of God's providence themselves and 2) instruments of God's providence for others.

In today's Gospel we see Divine Providence at work through Jesus and his followers. Jesus has been teaching all day long, providing his hearers with an excellent education, feeding their souls, but now the time has come to feed their bodies as well. 

And how does God provide them food? Miraculously, for sure, and using whatever is at hand. They've got seven loaves of bread and a few fish. Then bread and fish it will be. As God, he could have conjured up a seven-course meal from nothing, but he wants the people to do their part, so he limits himself to what they have. They provide their seven loaves and the fish and then Jesus provides a way for it to be enough. This seems to have happened more than once, because the New Testament recounts other occasions when there were 5 loaves and two fish, and times when 4,000 were fed as in today’s Gospel and other times when 5,000 were fed. 

But in every instance, he points out the need and then turns his disciples into instruments of God's providence for all those hungry people. He blessed the food and “gave it to the disciples, who then gave it to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied.” 

By the way, the word all includes the disciples themselves. They both: 1) received God's providence themselves and 2) were instruments of Gods providence for others.

You and I are like them. We too have received God's providence: through our parents, other family members, teachers, pastors, all the people through whom God has provided for us over all these years — and especially through Jesus, who continues to feed our souls with miraculous bread, bread not merely multiplied into more bread, not merely changed in amount as in today's Gospel, but in fact changed in its very nature, changed miraculously into Jesus' very body and blood for us to eat and drink and thereby receive eternal life. 

And then God sends us forth united with Jesus give our whole self for others like Jesus did for us, we too being not only 1) recipients of God's providence, but also now 2) instruments of God's providence for others.

Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily at the Arkansas Catholic Men’s Conference Feb. 11.

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