HOMILY – JULY 26
“How can I set this before a hundred people?” asked Elisha’s servant about 20 barley loaves.
“What good are these for so many?” Andrew asks Jesus as a boy comes forward with five barley loaves and two fish for well over 5,000 people.
“Prayer? Right. What good is THAT going to do?” we so often ask, yes, even we believers, when we are confronted with a desperate situation in our lives.
In all these instances, it is not God who fails to offer, it’s WE who fail to accept. When Elisha’s servant does what the prophet tells him, the people are fed adequately, with some left over. When the Apostles do what Jesus tells them, the people eat until they’re full, and a dozen baskets of fragments are collected as leftovers. When we actually do pray in our difficult situations, God’s grace flows our way to help us deal with things as they occur. In merely human terms, things sometimes get worse. People get sicker, we don’t get that job we prayed and hoped for, we don’t get into the school we had our heart set on, someone we love tells us without warning that they are leaving home or bowing out of a relationship. We could be crushed if we didn’t realize that God’s grace is going to help us get through the gloom of the dark night of the soul.
I’ve been richly blessed by God in having had a wonderful relationship with both of my parents. After Dad died in 2009, my bond with Mom grew even stronger as she came to rely on my help and that of my sister more and more. I knew the day would come when the Lord would call her home, and I dreaded it — mainly because I’ve inherited Mom’s emotions and figured I’d be a blubbering mess. I always said she could cry watching a Donald Duck cartoon, and she would reply, “Why not? Think of all that work and artistry, it’s so amazing and beautiful!”
At any rate, when she suddenly slipped away into eternity on the evening of July 15, it struck me that my response was not nearly as emotional as I had figured it would be. That’s not to say I haven’t choked up or shed tears. The tears just haven’t gotten in the way of things that needed to be done. And I asked God about it. “Dear Lord, I thought I’d have a lot harder time with this,” I said. And he replied, “You didn’t need the grace until now.” And I realized again how the martyrs of the past and present can go bravely off to horrible suffering and death with a certain equanimity. How do they do it? Aren’t they afraid? And the answer comes, “They WERE. But they didn’t need the grace until now.”
Doesn’t that make us wonder why some get the grace and others apparently do not? Why doesn’t EVERYBODY get the grace to handle difficulties in their lives? If God gives in abundance, as he did with these miracles of the multiplication of loaves, even more than what they could eat, why do some people seem to lack the grace to deal with their sufferings? Or DO they?
I can’t begin to tell you how many times I’ve recommended prayer or some time spent in adoration to people, and I can tell from their attitude that they’ve ruled it out before they try it. Then their life continues to go down the toilet, and they wonder why God doesn’t do anything. I’ve talked with many spouses, husbands and wives, whose wife or husband won’t budge an inch when it comes to seeking help TOGETHER to work on a troubled marriage. “It’s YOUR problem, YOU need the help,” the stubborn spouse often states in refusing counseling. I’ve often wanted to shake them and say, “If you promised to be two in one flesh, don’t you see that you’re PART of this, and that what affects one has to be affecting both?” But they’re not around to hear it. And often enough, we’ll find out later that they’ll say their marriage fell apart because God didn’t help them.
I’ve come to realize that so very, very often, the graces that God gives in abundance are willfully REFUSED by those who would benefit and grow by leaps and bounds if they would just swallow their pride. It’s like the atheist who keeps saying, “You’ll never prove to ME that God exists,” when he has decided that he will steel himself against any argument that is offered, case closed, end of story. It’s like the immature person who doesn’t want to hear something that pokes a hole in his version of reality, puts his hands over his ears, and shouts, “LA LA LA LA LA LA LA, I CAN’T HEAR YOU!!”
Remember that God doesn’t create anyone to go to hell. God WILLS the salvation of all. Predestination means that God has destined us for eternal glory, and that he will give us every possible grace and benefit to assist us on our journey to our true home. But he’ll never force the issue. Out of the well over 5,000 on the mountain that day, there were surely some who whined, “I don’t LIKE barley loaves,” or “Yukk, I HATE fish.” Well, you can go all through life missing the miracles of God’s grace. You’re invited to the table of faith. There’s a place set for you. You’ve been given the directions, and everybody’s plugging for you to get there. The whole Church prays for you every day. Jesus surrendered his own life for you on the cross. Now you’ve just got to decide to surrender yourSELF, and accept the grace that God is holding out to you even as you’re drawing your last breath. He created you for so much better.