Sunday Homilies by Fr. Rudolf V. Dí Souza

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18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 3, 2008 Year: A
Is 55:1-3; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Mt 14:13-21


First Reading...
"The Lord says this:
'Everyone who thirsts,
come to the waters;
and you that have no money,
come, buy and eat!
Come, buy wine and milk
without money and without price.

Why do you spend your money for that which is not bread,
and your labour for that which does not satisfy?
Listen carefully to me,
and eat what is good,
Incline your ear, and come to me;
listen, so that you may live.
I will make with you an everlasting covenant,
my steadfast, sure love for David.'" [Is. 55:1-3]

Second Reading...
"Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us.

For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord." [Rom. 8:35, 37-9]

Gospel Reading...
"When Jesus heard that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

When it was evening, the disciples came to him and said, 'This is a deserted place, and the hour is now late; send the crowds away so that they may go into the villages and buy food for themselves.'

Jesus said to them, 'They need not go away; you give them something to eat.' They replied, 'We have nothing here but five loaves and two fish.' And he said, 'Bring them here to me.'

Then Jesus ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, he looked up to heaven, and blessed and broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, and the disciplines gave them to the crowds.

And all ate and were filled; and they took up what was left over of the broken pieces, twelve baskets full. And those who ate were about five thousand men, besides women and children." [Mt. 14:13-21]

Helpful Event:
I was watching a video of a man who had lost his right hand in an accident long back. He procured help from his friends and is now able to use an electronically buffer hand. I found the man extremely happy to use this hand and he attempts to operate it well. I could find on his face immense happiness and I felt a deep compassion for this man. I entered into myself and felt how fortunate I am having both hands. Whole day I spent praising God for the gift of hands and at the same time I felt deep compassion to those who have lost one or the other organ of their body due to accidents, sickness or by birth.

Today compassion is not there among people. Jesus felt compassion towards the flock that was poor, miserable, helpless, sick, down trodden. Today people have many things in their life, but we find people complaining for things they do not have. They are blind, and do not see what God has done to them.

It is enough to visit some hospitals to discover how people suffer immensely due to multiple reasons of sickness, accidents and other grave reasons.

"He had compassion for them and cured their sick!" [Mt. 14:14] Jesus had compassion for His flock, the restless souls that followed Him wherever He went so that He could feed them with spiritual food that comes from the richness of the Word of God. By answering their calling, these hungry ones were enriched with spiritual food that healed their souls. Through the Lord Jesus, they received spiritual knowledge and understanding of the mysteries of God, inclining them to continue to desire more and more.

When facing suffering, pain, persecution, famine or even death, where do we turn? We do as Jesus did when He heard that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist. We turn to God through the Lord Jesus, the only begotten Son of God. Jesus calls us when He says, "Come to me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest." [Mt. 27:11]

The mentioning of the loaves of bread and the fish in today's reading of the Gospel was symbolic. They foreshadowed what was to come after the death and glorious Resurrection of our Lord Jesus. The fish echoes the Words of Jesus to Peter and Andrew, "Follow Me, and I will make you fish for people." [Mt. 4:19] The bread echoes the ministry of the priesthood in the Holy Catholic Church. It echoes the calling of holy men to become holy priests as instruments of God. Through these holy men, the Church Sacraments are administered and souls are saved.

Wider and Deeper Reflection
Has it ever occurred to you that you can only love when you are alone? What does it mean to love? It means to see a person, a thing, a situation, as it really is and not as you imagine it to be, and to give it the response it deserves as done by Jesus. You cannot love what you do not even see.

And what prevents you from seeing? Your concepts, your categories, your prejudices and projections, your needs and attachments, the labels you have drawn from your conditioning and from your past experiences. Seeing is the most arduous thing a human being can undertake. For it calls for a disciplined, alert mind, whereas most people would much rather lapse into mental laziness than take the trouble to see each person and thing anew in present moment freshness.  

To drop your conditioning in order to see is arduous enough. But seeing calls for something more painful still. The dropping of the control that society exercises over you: a control whose tentacles have penetrated to the very roots of your being, so that to drop it is to tear yourself apart.  

If you wish to understand this, think of a little child that is given a taste for drugs. As the drug penetrates the body of the child, it becomes addicted and its whole being cries out for the drug. To be without the drug is so unbearable a torment that it seems preferable to die. 

Now this is exactly what society did to you when you were a child. You were not allowed to enjoy the solid, nutritious food of life: work and play and the company of people and the pleasures of the senses and the mind. You were given a taste for the drug called Approval, Appreciation, Attention, the drug called Success. Prestige. Power. Having got taste for these things you became addicted and began to dread their loss. You felt terror at the prospect of failure, of mistakes, of the criticism of others. So you became cravenly dependent on people and lost your freedom. Others now have the power to make you happy or miserable. And much as you now hate the suffering this Involves, you find yourself completely helpless. There is never a minute when, consciously or unconsciously, you are not attuned to the reaction of others, marching to the drum of their demands. When you are ignored or disapproved of, you experience a loneliness so unbearable that you crawl back to people to beg for the comfort known as Support, Encouragement, Reassurance. To live with people in this state involves never ending tension: but to live without them brings the agony of loneliness. You have lost your capacity to see them clearly as they are and to respond to them accurately because mostly your perception of them Is clouded by your need to get your drug. 

The consequence of all this is terrifying and inescapable: You have become incapable of loving anyone or anything. If you wish to love you must learn to see again, and if you wish to see you must give up your drug. You must tear away from your being the roots of society that have penetrated to the marrow. You must drop out. Externally everything will go on as before, you will continue to be in the world, but no longer of it. And in your heart you will now be free at last and utterly alone. It is only in this aloneness, this utter solitude, that dependence and desire will die, and the capacity to love is born. For one no longer sees others as means to satisfy one's addiction.  

Only someone who has attempted this knows the terror of the process. It is like inviting yourself to die. It is like asking the poor drug addict to give up the only happiness he has known and to replace it with a taste for bread and fruit and the clean fresh morning air and the sweetness of the water from the mountain stream, while he Is struggling to cope with his withdrawal symptoms and with the emptiness that he experiences within himself now that his drug has gone. To his fevered mind nothing can fill the emptiness except his drug. Can you imagine a life in which you refuse to enjoy a single word of approval and appreciation, or to lean on someone's arm; in which you depend on no one emotionally, so no one has the power to make you happy or miserable any more: you refuse to need any particular person or to be special to anyone or to call anyone your own? Even the birds of the air have their nests and the foxes their holes, but you will have nowhere to rest your head in your journey through life.  

If you ever get to this state you will at last know what it means to see with a vision that is clear and unclouded by fear or desire. And you will know what it means to love. But to come to this land of love you have to pass through the pains of death. For to love persons is to have died to the need for persons and to be utterly alone.  

How would you ever get there? By ceaseless awareness, and the infinite patience and compassion that you would have for a drug addict. It will also help you to undertake activities that you can do with your whole being, activities that you so much love to do, that while you are engaged in them, success or recognition or approval simply do not mean a thing to you. It will help too if you return to Nature: send the crowds away and go up into the mountain and silently commune with trees and flowers and animals and birds, with sea and sky and clouds and stars. Then you will know that your heart has brought you into the vast desert of solitude. There is no one there by your side, absolutely no one. At first it will seem unbearable, but that is only because you are unaccustomed to aloneness. But if you manage to stay there for a while the desert will suddenly blossom into love. Your heart will burst into song. And it will be springtime forever.

When Jesus heard that Herod had beheaded John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. But when the crowds heard it, they followed him on foot from the towns. When he went ashore, Jesus saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them and cured their sick.

  Click here for other Sunday Homilies 

A New book from Fr. Rudy.

Click here for more...  

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