JOKE!! – Mr Arnold, a businessman from Tulsa, Oklahoma, went on a business trip to Amarillo, Texas. He immediately sent an e-mail back home to his wife, Paula. Unfortunately, he forgot his wife’s exact e-mail address and the e-mail ended up going to a Mrs. P. Arnold (of the same last name) in Rapid City, South Dakota, the wife of a preacher who had just died. The preacher’s wife, Penny, took one look at the e-mail and promptly fainted.
When she was finally revived by her daughter, Penny hysterically pointed to the message, which read, “Arrived safely, but it sure is hot down here.” (ha-ha… 🙂
Have you ever felt that God was asking of you something that you just couldn’t do? Think about it for a minute. Some suggestions: maybe The moment your first child was born, or a wedding, or sticking out a bad situation, or making a scary change of job or home, or trying to reconcile with an enemy or ending an unhealthy relationship? Anything like that? Where you truly felt in your heart of hearts that nagging feeling that God was either asking you to START DOING something or STOP DOING something? And you found yourself saying (or screaming for that matter), “GOD, THERE IS NO WAY THIS IS GOING TO HAPPEN.”
And yet here you are, and you’re ok. Maybe you got wounded in the battle, but you’re still sitting in this church. Even though worldwide mass attendance hovers somewhere around 20%, you’re still still here. (And if it weren’t for the church in Africa that figure would be even lower). I hope that you can stop for a moment and realize that your presence in this church is a small miracle. Maybe even a big one. Think about the people in your life that just didn’t make it – they have either lost their faith or have passed on.
This can be a sad reflection, but it can also be one full of grace if you open your heart. Because at least you – YOU’RE still here. And had circumstances been different or had you made different decisions, you wouldn’t be.
With this in mind, I want you to think about three different miracles for a moment. In our Gospel today, we see Jesus preaching to several thousand people in a deserted place in the middle of nowhere. His disciples encourage Jesus to send them away to get something to eat, to which Jesus responds “Give them something to eat yourselves.” Imagine how they must have felt.
“There is NO WAY we are going to be able to do this. Jesus, are you crazy? How could you ask us to do such a thing?”
And yet they were give the power to do it.
Think about the wedding at Cana. Jesus told those waiters to draw out the water and serve it to the guests as if it were wine. They must have been laughing to themselves. They must have felt embarrassed that they were about to be made fools of. But Jesus commanded them to draw out the water, and it had become wine.
Third, think about when Peter walked on water. Jesus COMMANDED him to do so. And what happened? Peter was able to do it as long as he didn’t let FEAR get the BEST of him.
What can we learn from these three stories? That when God gives a command, he also gives WITH that command the POWER TO CARRY IT OUT. God doesn’t just bark orders to us and expect us to jump. He also gives us a gift called GRACE to be able to fulfill those orders. In other words, he gives us a share in his own life. He gives us a share in his own power to do what must be done.
Are you involved in a disaster right now that looks like it isn’t working out? Think for a moment – did God ask you to do that or did you do that on your own? Because if God asked you to do it, you need to keep doing it and keep expecting a miracle. No Matter what. At the last and most unexpected moment, everything can change and thousands are fed, water turns to wine, and we walk on water. But maybe if he didn’t ask you to do it – maybe, just maybe — you are wasting your time?
This is what the Lord is saying in that first reading?
Why spend your money for what is not bread;
your wages for what fails to satisfy?
Heed me, and you shall eat well,
you shall delight in rich fare.
Come to me heedfully,
listen, that you may have life.
Are we spinning our wheels doing something in our lives? Maybe God is waiting to give us something new. Maybe we should give more prayer and sacrifice a try.
I have come to believe that Satan’s chief weapons are not the real evil stuff – not anger and lust and pride and cruelty. His chief weapons are simply FEAR and LAZINESS. Think about it. Both of those vices paralyze us into simply DOING NOTHING.
When I received my calling to the priesthood, it was not on my to-do list. I had gotten a master’s degree in politics and was destined for law and lobbying. But God reached in and somehow gave me a command. And I followed – though hesitantly, I followed. And then I entered the monastery, And now he has changed my life again and made me a diocesan priest. I really don’t know how I got here. But I know that I did not get here on my own. God has brought me into a life that is likely far richer than the one I had planned for myself. I never believed it was possible.
But it has happened. He gave me a command. And then the power to carry it out.
And when I entered the monastery the name “Basil” was chosen for me. And do you know that St. Basil started in his twenties studying politics and law, then become a monk for years, and then left and became a diocesan priest? Tell me there isn’t some kind of weird plan involved here…
I just realized this recently, and it’s a source of no small amount of wonder.
Every single person in this church is being given gentle commands by the Lord to fulfill his or her chosen destiny. They may sound simple. They may sound even crazy. And we may be afraid. And we may not think that it is possible.
But a few thousand people who were fed in a desert, some waiters who saw water turned into wine, a man who walked on water and a lobbyist who never thought he would be a priest would all want to encourage you to try to do what you are being asked.
Because where Jesus gives a command – he will also give you the power to carry it out.