HOMILY FOR THE 18TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (YEAR A)
Rev. Fr. Bonnie Nkem Anusiem Ph.D
There is no living person on earth that could boast of not needing anything; at least everyone needs air. Sometimes when people say there is no need for something, they mean that there is an option with a different need. Abraham Maslow, the humanist psychologist, talked about five hierarchy of needs in his theory of human motivation. At the base of the pyramid are the physiological needs, which include food, water, air, and shelter. The others are the safety needs, love and belongingness needs, esteem needs and finally the self-actualization needs,
One of the criticisms trailing Maslow’s theory is that needs don’t follow a hierarchy as any need could jump in at any time. We have some reasons to accept this perspective. For instance, a wealthy could still get hungry and thirsty despite transcending physiological needs. For clarity and better understanding, we shall divide needs into two parts in this reflection: the material and spiritual needs.
In the First Reading (Isaiah 55:1-3), we hear God sending out invitations for everyone to come for a scheduled meal of food and drink. The good news is that there are no-cost implications. Furthermore, the meal will bring life and renewal to all who partake of it.
Addressing the Needs of a Multitude
In the Gospel Reading today (Matt. 14:13-21), we see our Lord Jesus Christ attending to the two-fold human needs in a live interaction with a multitude made up of five thousand men excluding women and children.
Earlier, Jesus had withdrawn with a boat to a deserted place when he heard about the death of John the Baptist. He was not afraid of Herod but changed the foreground of his mission to avoid distractions. Disembarking from the boat, Jesus saw a large crowd that took a shortcut to his destination. The next thing that our Lord did would melt your heart. The narrative tells us that seeing the crowd, Jesus was moved with pity (compassion); why? Because he saw their needs. The Book of Psalm says that the Lord is gracious and compassionate to all (Psalm 145:8-10).
Our Lord Jesus Christ did not stop at the level of pity as most people would do, but he goes ahead to cure their sick. We may mistake the mention of sick here to refer just to a physical ailment, but there would be more to that. Surely our Lord also healed spiritual, mental, and emotional sicknesses through prayers and the word of God, which he proclaimed.
The healing ministry of Jesus on that fateful day stretched to the evening time, and the people developed another need, physical hunger. When the disciples approached our Lord to send the people away to go and get food in the nearby villages, he asked his disciples to give them something to eat. He was asking them to be proactive when there is a need.
Our Lord’s instruction seemed like a weird thing to say because the disciples did not prepare to host the crowd to a dinner. Moreover, feeding five thousand men, excluding women and children, would be unimaginable in the desert place.
But wait, our Lord wasn’t joking. He meant it when he said they should feed the crowd or, more appropriately, Jesus had a plan as he could see the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
When the disciples mentioned they had five loaves of bread and two fish with them, Jesus requested for them and giving thanks, Jesus instructed the disciples to share them among the people. They ate to satisfaction with some remaining fragments that could fill twelve wicker baskets to the brim.
The Lord Supplies!
Imagine the joy in the hearts of everyone in that crowd as they received food for not only their souls but also their bodies. Often in life, we pass through situations that put us in acute needs. Some people need peace, and some do not have hope, some have become faithless in the face of various challenges in life. There are still many others who are groaning under the weight of financial stress, joblessness, relationship hurdles, and other issues, just like the multitude in the Gospel today.
Here is the good news. For whatever you might be contending with our compassionate Jesus Christ is looking out for you with love in the desert place of your life. St. Paul tells us in the Second Reading (Rom. 8:35, 37-39) that nothing will separate us from that love God in Christ Jesus because God has a plan to supply all our need exceedingly abundantly more than we can think or imagine (Eph.3:20).
It might not look good now; it will be okay. Remember that God is mindful of you, God will bless and grant you increase as the scripture tells us in the Book of Psalm (115:12-14). Walk into the new week with these divine assurances; God knows your needs, and you are precious in God’s loving eyes. God bless you.