Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014
in Ordinary Time
Psalm 145:8-9, 15-18
Romans 8:35, 37-39
I enjoy watching little children at petting zoos as they try to get close enough to an animal to actually pet it.
When our own children were small, our neighborhood walks ended at a pasture with a lone horse. Although the kids desperately wanted to pet him, he was perfectly content to graze at a distance.
So they developed a strategy with a couple of carrots thrust through the fence. They tried to entice him by calling and waving the bait, but the suspicious horse wasn't buying it. Finally, as they held still and waited quietly, the horse inched close enough to sniff at the carrots and then try a bite before skittering away. The children were ecstatic.
Thereafter, we visited the pasture often, more carrots in hand, until the day when the horse (who now had learned that carrots were far tastier than grass) would hurry over to the fence as soon as he saw us. The three youngsters could now pet his velvety nose as he nibbled trustingly, satisfying both horse and humans and building a new friendship.
In today's reading from Isaiah, the Lord invites his people to come closer by enticing them with the "rich fare" of a covenant relationship -- anything short of that fails to satisfy. Even with the psalmist's assurance that God opens his hand and satisfies "the desire of every living thing," we know from Israel's history that their trust in God did not come easily and required frequent renewal.
In the Gospel, Jesus attracted large crowds of people who sought healing for their diseases but who also were hungry for something more. Recognizing both their physical and spiritual hungers and unwilling to send them elsewhere, he provided an abundance of bread and fish. There was "no need for them to go away," Matthew notes. "They all ate and were satisfied."
The miracle of the loaves foreshadowed a far greater gift of food -- Jesus' own body and blood, bought at great price to himself but given without price for the life of the world.
By this food, God draws us near to himself, satisfies our deepest hungers, and strengthens the bond of love from which nothing can separate us, according to St. Paul. We need only come, trustingly, to his outstretched hand.
This column is offered in cooperation with The North Texas Catholic of Fort Worth, Texas.