Sunday, July 26, 2015

Do you believe in miracles?

HOMILY FOR THE 17th SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME, July 26, 2015:

Johnny came home from Sunday school and couldn’t wait to tell his mother about class. “Boy that story of Moses and all those people crossing the Red Sea was something!” “Tell me all about it,” his mother said. Johnny began, “Well, the Israelites got out of Egypt, but Pharaoh and his army chased after them. So the Jews ran as fast as they could until they got to the Red Sea. The Egyptian Army was getting closer and closer. So…Moses got on his iPhone and called in a drone strike on the Egyptians. Then the Navy built a pontoon bridge so the people could cross over. And, they made it!” The mother was shocked, and asked, “Is that how they told you the story at Sunday school?” “Well, not exactly,” admitted Johnny, “but if I told you the way they told it to us, you'd never believe it, Mom.” How often do we find it difficult to believe in miracles because they seem a little too great? Our secular world makes no room for miracles and spiritual realities and is instead limited only to what we can observe and verify. We are taught to be skeptical when things seem too good to be true.

Today's Gospel is a good example. A secular view looks at the feeding of the 5,000 with skepticism. Skeptical Bible scholars will even pose questions about whether or not Jesus actually fed that many people. Maybe the miracle is that everyone shared, they say. But with the eyes of faith we look at this story in a different way. Faith opens us to the experience that says “Yes, God can and did do that great wonder! I believe it!” Jesus did feed a multitude, Jesus did heal countless people who were ill, Jesus did cast demons out of the possessed, He did raise the officials daughter and His friend Lazarus from the dead, Jesus did offer us His real Body and Blood in the Eucharist, and did Himself rise from the dead – all spectacular, and beyond the normal realm, but we believe because with God anything, in fact, everything is possible.

In our passage today, John mentions two disciples by name: Philip and Andrew. In this passage, they represent two types of faith. Philip is the skeptic, not ready to accept a miracle while Andrew’s faith makes room for miracles and so becomes a partner in one with Jesus.

To the problem of all these hungry people Philip responds skeptically. “Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little,” he says. But Andrew, with a more expectant faith speaks up. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish.” Now, Andrew was realistic enough to know that five loaves and two fish were nothing before a crowd of more than 5,000, yet he had enough faith to see that it was enough for a start; to see that grace, that miracles build on nature. Perhaps Andrew was remembering the marriage feast at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. He remembered that Jesus did not make wine out of nothing; He made it out of something. And it is the disciples' duty first to provide that basic something which Jesus in His love would then transform, like water into wine; or multiply, like bread to feed the hungry crowd. Expectant faith, therefore, does not make us fold our hands doing nothing looking into heaven. Rather it spurs us on to make our best contribution, our five loaves and two fish, knowing that without it there would be no miracle. A miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us and us with God.

A skeptic looks at the feeding of 5,000 and says, “That probably didn’t really happen.” The person of faith looks and says, “5,000 people is that all? Jesus has been miraculously feeding millions or even billions of people through his Body and Blood at Mass for over 2,000 years.” You and I are each and every time we worship part of the greatest miracle of feeding the multitude. He continues to multiply that meager offering every time we gather for the Eucharist. All we offer Him is some bread and wine to work with, and for more than 2,000 years He continually transforms that into His very Body and Blood; His real presence in our midst. So, we should believe, not only because we have faith, but also because we have eyes that see it at every Mass, hands that touch and hold and receive and bodies that consume that same miraculous bread become Body over and over again. The Eucharist is the most incredible miraculous feeding of the multitude in history – and it is still going on!

This is how God wants us to work in the world as well. He doesn’t do these things as tricks or just for show. Instead, He tells us, “I have given you an example. As I have done, so you must do.” There is a wonderful quote of Pope Francis from this past March that gets right at this. He said, “Yes, you pray for the hungry. Then you feed them. That’s how prayer works.” God needs us to do our part and whatever we do, He will multiply – sometimes to miraculous results.

Henry Ford once said, "Whether you think you can or not, you are right." The same can be said about our ability to be a force of change in the world. Believers, by believing, open their lives to miracles. Skeptics block their chances of experiencing a miracle. If we truly believe that Jesus did heal, did cast out demons, did raise people from the dead, did offer the Eucharist, did rise from the dead Himself – if we believe that, just imagine what He will do in our lives and through our lives if we’re open to Him. Jesus is just waiting to let a miracle happen through our own faith in Him. Jesus often said, “According to your faith will it be done to you.” Let us pray today and everyday to have the expectant faith of Andrew, to be open to what God wants to do in our lives. Through our faith, truly miraculous things will happen.

May God give you peace.

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