Saturday, August 01, 2020

Between Engine & Wheels

18th Sunday in Ordinary Time (A)

Readings: Isaiah 55:1-3; Psalm 144(145):8-9,15-18; Romans 8:35,37-39; Matthew 14:13-21

Picture: cc Kyle McKenzie

My dear friends, do you know what an axle is? It’s that crucially important part of a car that connects the engine to the wheels. The axle transmits the energy generated by the engine to the wheels in order to make them turn. Without the axle, even if the engine may run, the car will not move.

I mention this, because what we find in today’s Mass readings looks very much to me like the parts of a car. First, the second reading tells us about the amazing engine that is God’s love. So irresistible is its power that no created thing can ever come between us and the love of God made visible in Christ Jesus our Lord.

It is this same amazing power that Jesus invites his disciples to share with the crowds gathered around them in the gospel. Now the Lord could probably have quite easily fed the people on his own, right? Yet he chose to say to his disciples, give them something to eat yourselves. Why did he do this, if not to show them that, if he himself is the engine, then they are meant to be the wheels?

And the call Jesus issued to the first disciples in the gospel remains our call today. We too are meant to be channels of God’s love, reaching out to feed others with the spiritual food that God provides for us so freely and abundantly in Christ. The same food that we are gathered here at this Mass to enjoy. And to do this not just in word, but also in deed. Not just in church, but wherever our steps may take us in the world. To be the wheels that keep turning to bring God’s love especially to those who may be most in need of it right now.

But that’s not all. In addition to an engine and wheels, the readings also describe for us something that looks like an axle. Except that this axle is not so much an object as it is a practice, or a discipline. We find it most clearly in the first reading, where God appeals to all who are thirsty to come to the water! To come to the Divine Engine that alone is the Source of everything that is good and true and beautiful. To come to the One who is Goodness and Truth and Beauty itself. To come… and drink… and eat… and live…

Except that this is not our usual kind of eating and drinking. It is not the compulsive consumption that our modern society engages in so routinely everyday. The kind that can be done half asleep. Indeed the kind that is precisely what keeps so many of us asleep. For what is perhaps most striking about the first reading is how often the word listen is repeated. Listen, listen to me… Pay attention… listen, and your soul will live… To eat and to drink is really to listen closely to God. To receive God’s Word and to ponder its practical implications for our lives. To allow God’s love to take root in us, that we might bear good fruit in abundance. And isn’t this also what our world needs most today, disturbed and disrupted as it is by deprivation and division and disease?

Sisters and brothers, if we are indeed called to be wheels, then what must we do to also become better axles today?

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