Homily for 17th Sunday in Ordinary time Year B 29 July, 2012
Three years ago, I witnessed a miracle myself and until now I couldn’t stop thanking God for his wonderful manifestation of his compassion to me and to my family. Three years ago, my 14-year old nephew was diagnosed with Leukaemia. His case was already the worst. My family and his (my nephew’s) parents began to lose hope that he would recover. He could no longer walk because his knees and elbows were swollen and it caused him pain day and night. We wanted to hospitalize him but we don’t have hundreds of thousands to pay for it.
At that time, I was assigned at St Kilians Parish for my Pastoral placement. Towards the end of my placement, I indicated to one person in the parish my wish, my hope and my prayer that I can find a way to help my nephew. I was hoping then even just to provide him a wheelchair, at least to ease up his suffering for the last days of his life, so we thought.
Unbeknown to me words of my hopes, wishes and prayers for nephew was passed on to few of the parishioners. The parish organized a leaving collection for my nephew at the very last day of my stay in the parish. It was an unreal and such a moving experience for me. Many who came to that Sunday Mass had fished some change in their pockets and purses, from the little they can have to the most they can give. The total amount I received was unbelievable. I can’t believe just by simply asking for a simple wheelchair, I got the amount that was even more than what my nephew immediately needs for his hospitalization. I rang home that day, and urged them to take my nephew to the hospital at once which they did. However, he was turned down by two private hospitals because even the doctors there had very little or had even lose hope that he would recover. They were concerned we might just be wasting so much money.
Amazingly, he was admitted to the third hospital, treated immediately, and went out of the hospital a week later. He had recovered quite well, no chemotheraphy or radiation, just a monthly check-up. And the other amazing thing is there is a wonderful parishioner of St Kilians who is faithfully and continuously sponsoring my nephew for his monthly check-up, for more than three years now. This all happens just because of my simple hope for a wheelchair, heard by God, and had encouraged everyone who heard it to share what they had. This experience teaches me that no matter how little we can give if given in love and shared with the community, God makes a great miracle out of it.
This is what the little boy in our gospel today does. He gave up the little provision he had (5 barley loaves [usual food for the poor] and two fish) to Jesus. No mention of his name there, in a way he is just nothing, he is just one of the crowd. But out of his nothingness, out of the little thing he had, Jesus was able to feed thousands and even collected 12 baskets of leftovers.
The same thing happened in our First Reading today. A man, again an unnamed person giving a gift of food to Elisha. He had given twenty barley loaves maybe just intended for Elisha’s consumption. But Elisha asked to share it with a hundred men. A miracle happened. All had their fill and even there were some leftovers.
This teaches us therefore that what matters the most is not on what have we given, or who are we who gives but on how united are we in our cause of generosity and in how much love do we give in our act of giving. Love therefore must be the motivation behind everything that we do to our Lord and God and to our neighbours. It must be love and only love that motivates us to be true to ourselves before God and before others. If love is what energises and empowers us, we come to realize that we don’t really have to be rich in order to do something great. We don’t have to be famous, and popular in order to give. And as our Gospel and First Reading today would tell us, we don’t really have to stand out of the crowd, or to be the centre of attention in order for God to do something great in and through us. We just have to act together in love and something amazing will happen.
How can we tell if our act of giving is inspired by love or by personal glory? St Paul in our Second Reading today, somewhat offers us few ways to review our life in the way we give to others. St Paul wrote to the Ephesians: ‘Lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience…(Eph 4:1-6). Do we really give for the sake of the other person’s needs or only because we are hoping to get something in return?
Our celebration of the Eucharist opens for us another way to see if our giving is motivated by love or for our personal gain. Every time we celebrate the mass, we are witnessing the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross in Calvary. Every time we attend Holy Mass, we are partaking the great and singular sacrifice of Christ who is so in love with us, so much so that he laid down his very life for all of us, his beloved. God loved us so much that he gave up his only Son. Christ loved us so much that he gave up his own life for us his friends. Christ gives his life for us totally, unconditionally, no strings attached, just for our salvation.
A concrete proof of this selfless love of Christ is his utmost generosity of himself by becoming our real food and drink in the Eucharist. Because of his love, God great as he is, allowed himself to be contained in that simple and small earthly elements, to become our nourishment. He became little and small, for us to grow and be prepared for the coming of the Kingdom. So if like Jesus, we don’t hesitate to lay down our lives for others then, this is selfless love and surely not for personal gain.
Yet as we now realize, with God our littleness and our nothingness if you like, is always something for God, and he can always make a miracle out of it. So let’s stop accusing ourselves or blaming ourselves, or let’s stop the habit of self-pity and despair, because we have God who cares for us so intimately and personally (by being our food and drink in the Eucharist). So let’s instead continue or develop the habit of thanking God for his great love for us.
I would leave you with the words of St John Vianney on the beauty of holy Communion, the moment in the Mass where we experience the personal and the intimate touch of Christ in us and the greatest miracle we can witness and even participate in today. The Saint said:
“If we could comprehend all the good things contained in Holy Communion, nothing more would be wanting to content the heart of man. The miser would run no more after his treasures, or the ambitious after glory; each would shake off the dust of the earth, leave the world, and fly away towards heaven,”
Because of the beauty of holy Communion, St Francis de Sales also urges us to pay so much care and attention to our Lord every we receive him in Communion. St Francis wrote:
“When you have received Him, stir up your heart to do Him homage; speak to Him about your spiritual life, gazing upon Him in your soul where He is present for your happiness; welcome Him as warmly as possible, and behave outwardly in such a way that your actions may give proof to all of His Presence.”