“God will provide.” It’s a common response by well meaning people of faith when we’re struggling with a difficult situation and we find ourselves in need. Be these needs physical or spiritual or both, the phrase “God will provide” can be hard for us to accept, especially when our common human reason would seem to suggest otherwise. Our readings for this 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time helps us to find faith that God will answer our needs…
The Word for the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time
Psalm: 145:8-9, 15-16, 17-18
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Our first reading comes from the book of Isaiah, “Deutero” or “Second” Isaiah to be precise. This part of Isaiah speaks of redemption for an Israel that finds itself in Exile in Babylon. The Babylonian’s destruction of Jerusalem and their subsequent Exile was a deeply transformative experience for the Hebrew people, and much of that transformation is seen in our Scriptures. Yet through that pain, they came to realize that God’s forgiveness is still there for the asking. The covenant is in fact, everlasting. In our passage for this Sunday God invites us to “come to the water,” To drink wine and milk, to eat fine food. God’s promises are there if we only listen to his life-giving word. Food and drink are some of our most basic needs, and Isaiah is telling us that the Lord will answer these needs. A hopeful image of God as the provider of all our needs as echoed by our Psalm.
This theme of God providing for our needs is also seen in our Gospel reading from Matthew with the very real example Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5000. As our story opens, Jesus is despondent from hearing the news of the death of John the Baptist. In this moment of personal need, Jesus seeks to get away from the crowds, so he gets in a boat and heads for a distant shore. But as is typical, the people still find him and follow. Moved with pity, Jesus cures their sick. But as the day draws to a close, the Apostles urge Jesus to dismiss the crowd so they can go into town and buy food. But Jesus doesn’t see any need to send them away. Instead, he tells the disciples to give them their food… five loaves and 2 fish… barely enough to feed themselves let alone such a large crowd. Jesus standing before the crowd, takes the food, says the blessing, breaks the bread, and then gives it to the disciples to hand out. The story tells us that all ate and were satisfied, with twelve baskets of leftovers to spare.
Much has been theorized about this miracle, with many people questioning if it was a miracle at all, suggesting instead that the people were inspired to share what they had stashed. But those who dwell on how Jesus did this are missing the point. The point is that “God provides”. How God does this, through miracle or inspiration isn’t the point. The point is one of faith in God. That if we have faith, God will answer our needs.
This idea of “Let Go and Let God” is a difficult thing to put into practice, especially for those of us who like to be in control of our situations. Indeed, when taken to extremes, this idea of letting God take care of everything is pure folly, and can lead us to not taking responsibility for ourselves or those around us. On the other hand, there are those times when we must realize that we can’t control everything, and take that “leap of faith” and trust that God will indeed answer.
This level of faith and trust can be hard, but I think our second reading again holds the key… Love. In our continued study of Paul’s letter to the Romans, Paul reminds us that (to borrow an overused phrase) “Love will keep us together.” Christ’s love does conquer all.