God’s Unconditional Love: Heals, Frees, And Feeds Us!
Readings: 1st: Ish 55: 1-3; Ps 55: 1-3; 2nd: Rom 8: 35. 37-39; Gos Mtt 14: 13-21
This brief reflection was written by Rev. Fr. Njoku Canice Chukwuemeka, C.S.Sp. He is a Catholic Priest and a Member of the Congregation of the Holy Ghost Fathers and Brothers (Spiritans). He is currently working at the Sanctuario del Espiritu Sancto, in Dorado, San Juan Puerto Rico, of the Spiritan International Group of the Republica Dominicana-Puerto Rico. For more details and comments contact him on: firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com.
On this 18th Sunday of Ordinary time our attention is drawn once again to the unconditional love of God fully manifested in his Son Jesus Christ. This great Love which we celebrate today, as well as being the source of our entire life, equally sustains our life with the food of the Eucharist, made visible in Jesus Christ. God’s divine love for us is the love of choice, the love of serving with humility (Mk 10:45), the highest kind of love (John 3:16), the noblest kind of devotion, the love not motivated by superficial appearance, emotional attraction, or sentimental relationship. The measure of love, human and divine, is how much it gives. By this standard the love of God is immeasurable, because both the greatness of the gift and the cost of giving it are beyond our power to grasp. All human parallels fall short, while all comparisons are inadequate.
In our first reading today, God extends a special and universal invitation to all of us and offers us everything FREE OF CHARGE! His gifts, his love, and care are as free and as limitless as the air we breathe, and most importantly, he knows the basics of our needs. The things we need most in life as today’s psalm says: “You open wide your arms, O Lord, you grant our desires” (Ps. 144: 16). One problem we have however is that most times, because of the worries, difficulties and even, our own pride and ego, we do not get the benefits and dividends of God’s love which are ever over flowing. The only thing God wants from us as he invites us today is: “Oh come…listen, listen to me…Pay attention, come to me, listen and your soul will live…” What a simple condition this is? No money to be paid, no labour, and no energy to be expanded. All He wants is “Come”, Listen”, and “Pay attention!” This is a universal invitation. No one is exempt; it applies to all. It is available to all and all need it. Whosoever wills may come! The prophet used this word “come” three good times to highlight God’s offer of salvation and of a life that is truly satisfying and meaningful. When God says “come,” he means every bit of it. He says, “I have what you need and I want you to have it.” This type of invitation points first of all to the fact that we are not at the place of blessing or relief, and so we must make a decision now! Also, this invitation expresses the urgency of the matter. It is urgent because the longer we delay, the harder it is for us to come, and the less opportunity there is for us to come. Finally, through this invitation Isaiah expresses the loving heart of God who wants us to experience His love, comfort, and provision (Ish 40, 1).
In the second reading, Paul speaks with great confidence and surety about the love of God for us. He of course, speaks as one who has experienced this love. He assures us that nothing can come between us and the love of Christ, “not troubles, persecutions, lacks…for I am certain of this, neither death nor life, nor any created thing can ever come between us and the love of God…” Paul stresses the inability of all these things to separate us from the love of Christ. Shall they, can they, do it? No, by no means! All this will not cut the bond of love and friendship that is between Christ and true believers. Christ did not and will not love us the less for all this. All our troubles are very consistent with the strong and constant love of the Lord Jesus. They are neither a cause nor an evidence of the abatement of his love. A true Christian loves Christ never the less, though, he suffers for Him. It is pertinent to note that this love of God is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Yet, we cannot tell why God sets his love upon us. Why He chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world, connecting our destiny eternally with Christ His beloved Son, we cannot tell. We must therefore bear this fact in mind, simply, that God has loved us even as He loved Christ (Jh 17:26). Even when we fail utterly, and are overwhelmed, that is the time to say: “We have been accepted in Christ-only in Christ, and wholly in Christ.” Our place is unchanged by our failure. We are ashamed before God, but not confounded. Just now His eyes are on us in Christ, as they ever have been. Christ having died for us never gets tired of loving us. He is a faithful groom and means every bit of his word when he says to us his bride: “I will love and cherish you in sickness and in health, in good times and in bad times and indeed in all circumstances of your life.” The difference between our human marital vows and that of Christ, is what Paul stresses today – “nothing can separate us from the love of God.” So, instead of “until death do us part”, Jesus says to us: “Not even death can do you part from me, because, whether you die or live you belong to me!”(Rom 14: 8).
In today’s Gospel, Jesus practically demonstrated and manifested his love for us, his people. He proved his love by not only taking care of our spiritual needs, but also our mundane needs. His love caters for our body and soul. The feeding of the five thousand shows the remarkable generosity of God and his great kindness and love towards us. Twelve baskets full of fish and loaves that were leftover show the overflowing generosity of God’s gifts to us – gifts that bring blessing, healing, strength, and refreshment. God never rests in caring for our needs. Jesus never disappoints those who earnestly seek him out. His compassion showed the depths of God’s love and care for his people. Jesus speaks the word of God to strengthen us in faith and heals our sicknesses. What do we learn from today’s gospel? Quiet a lot! First Jesus both sympathizes and empathizes with us in our distress – he feels what we feel and comes to our aid. Second, whenever we come to him, he never casts us away or feels inconvenienced by our presence, instead, he reads and interprets our weaknesses and needs, and compassionately attends to them. Third, he defiles all odds in order to make us comfortable. He makes the impossible happen just for our sake and good. Fourth, the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, when Jesus said the blessing, broke and distributed the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, is a sign that prefigures the superabundance of the unique bread of the Eucharist and Love of God which sustains us on our journey to the kingdom of heaven.
The love of God keeps healing us every day of our life, it keeps multiplying our loaves, and it keeps comforting, and satisfying us. This same love is banner over us (Song 2: 4)! God multiplies the little we have so we can bring his blessings to others. As Christ loves us, in like manner, we too must extend this love to others. This is the only way we can show that we are God’s children, replicas, as well as instruments of love in his hands. When God gives, he gives abundantly. He gives more than we need for ourselves that we may have something to share with others, especially those who lack what they need. Also, God takes the little we have and multiplies it for the good of others. Do you trust in God’s provision for you, and do you share freely with others, especially those who lack? The ones who presented their loaves and fish were instruments of love in Christ’s hands and so, participated in the miracle. Jesus needed those items to perform his miracle of love. He counts on us to provide them!
Peace be with you all!!