When you and I were babies, we were totally dependent and yet our needs were met. The reason is divine providence. God gave us parents, and especially a mother, to provide for us. And they provided for us out of love.
We learned to trust our mother to provide milk and warmth and relief from a dirty diaper. We experienced divine providence without even thinking about it; God was providing for us through her. It was the world we knew, and naturally we took it for granted.
Part of the process of maturing involves separation from direct parental protection, which if handled well tends to draw us closer to God, but which, if handled poorly, can lead us to distance ourselves not only from our parents but also from God too. Have you noticed that rebelling against parents and rebelling against God often go hand in hand?
When we mature ungrateful for all God’s blessings and forgetful of all he has done for us, we can easily begin to imagine that everything is now on us, that our successes and failures are all our own doing, that we have to provide for ourselves at all times, and so we end up forgetting about our ongoing dependence on God and others for meaning and purpose and all the other important things in life.
In today's readings, we have stories of divine providence. In our first reading, Elisha -- through God's providence -- feeds 100 people with just 20 barley loaves, and when they had eaten, some was left over. That miracle prefigured the even greater miracle of divine providence that we have in today's Gospel: Jesus feeds 5,000 with five barley loaves and two fish, and when they had eaten, 12 wicker baskets of fragments were left over. God not only provided, he provided far more than was needed. Fifty times more than in the case of Elisha. In this case, Jesus did so by using the contribution of a young boy who, with seeming recklessness, gave up the certainty of having a good dinner for himself in order to try to help meet the needs of others. He trusted in Jesus that if he did what Jesus asked, God would see to it that his needs would be provided for.
Today is a good time to thank God for the way he has provided for us over all these years. He has fed us spiritually through the sacraments and above all through the Eucharist, which we share today. He has provided for us materially and helped us overcome obstacles.
Some of you are dealing with disappointment at the discontinuation of the Latin Mass in your parish. Others of us have received God’s help in dealing with the challenges of unemployment or experienced how he brought you through problems in your marriage or with your children. He has brought healing into our lives and brought us safely through this time of pandemic.
Trusting in God’s providence is a sure sign of faith and trust in Jesus, the Good Shepherd who never fails to protect us and guide us in this life and into the green pastures of the life to come.
Today we are gathered around this Eucharistic table in which Jesus will once again work a miracle in our presence far greater than the multiplication of loaves we read about in today’s Gospel. On that day 2,000 years ago, Jesus made more bread, but it remained just bread. Today Jesus converts bread into his very body and blood, soul and divinity, which he then gives to us and invites us to take it into ourselves, uniting us to him in the most intimate way imaginable. That is in today’s Gospel, which then sets the scene for the Bread of Life discourse in which Jesus will unpack this central truth of our faith over the next four Sundays, culminating in his great declaration: “Amen, amen I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him on the last day. For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.”
When we were babies, all our needs were met, and in God’s eyes, you and I are still babies. We thank the Lord for all his care up to now and trust in his providence through all the ups and downs of life, for all the years to come.
Bishop Anthony B. Taylor delivered this homily July 25.
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