2 Aug 2009
“‘Truly I say to you, you are looking for me not because you saw signs but because you ate the loaves and were filled.’” (John 6:26) In the name …
Fr. Randy Calvo
I’ve read that President Obama and his family will be vacationing at the end of the month on Martha’s Vineyard. They’ll be staying at a $20 million home that rents out for $50,000 a week. Along with the house, there’s a private beach, a yacht, golf practice facilities, a pool and a basketball court. Our President may end up paying one third of the cost because the Secret Service will pay one third and the White House another one third. This means that it will cost him personally somewhere around $17,000 for his week-long vacation on Martha’s Vineyard and us the remaining $33,000.
But even so, I don’t resent the fact that the President of the United States of America enjoys privileges like this. Because of all the violent crazies out there in our world, it’s not like the President can stay at a Holiday Inn somewhere or take his family for a casual walk down a public beach. So I don’t resent that our President is heading out to Martha’s Vineyard about the same time I’ll be staying amid all of the class and comfort of 4-H Camp Howe in Goshen during our Diocesan Youth Retreat.
Like I said, I don’t resent that the President is vacationing at a $20 million home on Martha’s Vineyard, but it’s fun to dream about being there myself, to walk casually among 20 some odd acres of a beautiful piece of property on an already beautiful island, to be able to walk at sunrise along a private beach, or to take the yacht out for a cruise at sunset. I can dream of someday hitting the lottery so that I could spend $50,000 on a week’s vacation, although I can’t imagine how much money makes that amount feel comfortable. This is a pretty extravagant, although I’ll bet pretty common, kind of dream, but it’s nothing compared to what God dreams for us, and I wish more people could believe this.
Let’s go back to this morning’s Gospel. The miraculous feeding of the 5,000 has just taken place, and Jesus has been seen walking on the water. His ability to feed the hungry was a long awaited sign that God had sent His Messiah into the world to shepherd His people, to care for them. Moses had miraculously fed the people of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt, and these accounts make up the Propers of today’s Mass. Through Moses God provided for their needs. The Jewish Books of the Law close with Moses promising that God will send another leader like him; and by the time of Jesus, Israel had already been waiting for over 12 hundred years for this to be fulfilled. When Jesus feeds those 5,000 men up on that mountain, He’s doing what Moses once did. He’s feeding the people of God miraculously. Furthermore, Jesus’ walking on the water gave evidence that His power was a manifestation of the power of the Creator Himself, that since God had created the world only the true Messiah of God could control that very same creation. Here was both miraculous and heaven-sent proof that Jesus is the one sent by God. Put both of these together and just imagine what God can offer.
But what does Jesus find instead? What are the hopes and aspirations of these people who should realize that they are in the presence of God? The crowds are looking for something. They’ve followed Jesus across the Sea of Galilee and back to His hometown of Capernaum. They’ve invested themselves in following Him. But what are they looking for from this man of God, this miracle worker, this Messiah? What are they seeking from the hand of God’s physical presence in our world? Jesus hits the nail on the head when He confronts them with the fact that they have come all the way to Capernaum for nothing more than another free meal. “‘You ate the loaves and were filled,’” says Jesus to them. The 5,000 who were fed were hungry not starving. No one was going to die. The importance of the miracle wasn’t about their stomachs. It was about their souls. Could they see the care of God in this act? And sadly, Jesus realized they couldn’t. These people even have the audacity to ask Jesus, “‘What sign can you do that we may see and believe in you?’” What more could Jesus do than the miracle of the loaves and the walking on the water? It was obvious to Jesus that their hopes and dreams would never reach much beyond a good meal and a full stomach.
Jesus tries to prod them to dream larger, to dream about “‘the food that endures for eternal life, which the Son of Man will give you.’” His dreams are bigger than our wishes. We dream about things and luxuries, like staying at a $20 million vacation home on Martha’s Vineyard. And Jesus says to us, “Too small.” A lot of people have become jaded by our world. It seems that every occupation, institution and leader is susceptible to scandal, so much so that we’re not surprised by it anymore. And into this world-view where at best we dream of tactical victories like luxury and wealth, Jesus challenges us to dream of strategic ideals like the big dreams of faith, hope and love, and peace, community and respect. Today these can sound like empty slogans that will be thrown around but with no intention of ever being put into practice, but these are the dreams that Jesus finds real. These are the big dreams that brought God into our world. These are the dreams that Jesus wants us to share in with Him. These are the dreams we have every right to believe in when we believe in God. And that’s what makes faith powerful. This can change lives and make the impossible possible. As we are now in the presence of God, may we dare to dream large because these are the dreams that make this life meaningful and that gave purpose to the life of Jesus/. For this we pray in Jesus’ name. Amen. (+)