Sunday, July 29, 2012

Deus Providebit

Feeding the Multitude by Bernardo Strozzi
Readings for July 29/ Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time:
Second Kings 4:42-44
Psalm 145:10-11, 15-18
Ephesians 4:1-6
John 6:1-15

Deus Providebit. God will provide.

This inscription is found on the base of the statue of Our Lady that welcomes you to Notre Dame Seminary, where I went to graduate school. It always struck me because it wasn’t any lengthy quote - just two words in Latin – and yet those two words brought me comfort and solace in the most difficult of days that I had while there. In the midst of it all I had a firm hope and faith that God would in fact provide and can point to places where He did so, as I pray that each of you can do as well.

As we listen to the scriptures today we hear some of those ancient stories of how God has provided for His people. Second Kings and John’s Gospel both provide passages where food was miraculously multiplied by God, in the Old Testament at the command of Elisha and in the New Testament by the Lord Jesus. Tying these two stories together is that beautiful verse from Psalm 145: The eyes of all look hopefully to you, and you give them their food in due season. We are reminded that all things come from God and that He will give what we need, but also we are given a hint that while God gives what we need, what we need is often not what we expect to receive. The people with Elisha didn’t believe there was enough food and Andrew points out the loaves and fish almost as a sign of despair, as if to say it wasn’t even enough for the Lord and the Twelve alone, much less for thousands of others. And yet, the Lord provided and even provided a little extra for later. Deus providebit. God will provide.

Today we begin a five-week period of hearing and reflecting on John 6, wherein the Lord gives His Bread of Life Discourse, telling those who hear of what He will provide for His hearers and for all those who seek to follow Him in the future. As is so often the case, what the Lord says is a bit shocking, for He tells them that He will provide for their sustenance nothing other than His own Flesh and Blood. Surely this was not at all what they were expecting, and yet as we will hear in the coming weeks, this is indeed what He comes to give and commands us to receive. And here is one of the major differences between Catholicism and every other Christian community (excluding the Orthodox, of course).

All Christians agree that we can and should spend time reading the Sacred Scriptures and allowing the Word of God to nourish us. So important is it for us Catholics, that we have at four separate readings from the scriptures every Sunday, the responsorial psalm included, not to mention that the majority of the prayers in the Mass are scriptural. But as Catholics, we don’t stop at simply hearing and receiving the Word of God into our mind and heart. We also receive the Word of God in our very flesh. All non-Catholic Christian communities honor the scriptures but do not recognize the Lord in the Eucharist He commanded us to celebrate.

So as we conclude this first of five weeks of reflections on the gift of the Eucharist and its place in our lives, it is appropriate to pause and examine ourselves in this regard:

Do I really believe, as the Church teaches and as the Lord will say over and again in the coming weeks, that what we receive at Holy Communion is not bread and wine but is truly Christ's Body and Blood?

If so, am I showing that belief in the way that I receive Communion and attend Mass?

If you're struggling with belief, ask yourself why that might be. What is keeping you from total belief in His Presence with us. And then make the words of the man in the Gospels your own: Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.