The Church has only Christ to Give

Douglas P. McManaman
Homily: 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time.
August 4, 2020
Reproduced with Permission

What struck me about the gospel is that although the disciples have seen Christ work miracles, heal the sick, cure the paralyzed, and witnessed his power over nature when he calmed the storm, and saw him raise Jairus's daughter from the dead, they are still not entirely aware of the power that is in their midst. The disciples said to Jesus: "This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves". But Jesus says to them: "There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves".

And, of course, their reply was that they don't have enough to feed them. So Jesus tells them to bring the five loaves and the two fish to him, and he multiplies them and feeds the 5 thousand. So, of course they had enough to feed them, because they have Christ in their midst. Whatever we have, however small, he can use in order to accomplish what goes well beyond our expectations. Jesus always exceeds our expectations.

For some reason, it is hard to believe that Jesus loves others more than we love them and that he has the power to achieve what we cannot achieve. That's a blindness that results from our imperfect faith. We love our children and want the best for them, but we are also acutely aware of our limits, our inability to bring about the best for them. But Christ is in our midst; he can do what we cannot. All we have to do is remember to ask him. He loves them more than we do; his heart was moved with pity when he saw the crowds who followed him, and who brought with them many who were sick. He was moved by the love he saw in them, the love they had for their sick and he was moved by their awareness of their inability to bring about what their own love desires for them and by their faith that he can do what they are unable to do. And finally, he made sure not to send them away hungry.

That's one thing that moves the heart of Christ: when others go looking for him, confident that he can do what they cannot. In the book of Wisdom, it says that wisdom anticipates those who desire her: "Resplendent and unfading is Wisdom, and she is readily perceived by those who love her, and found by those who seek her. She hastens to make herself known to those who desire her; one who watches for her at dawn will not be disappointed, for she will be found sitting at the gate." Christ is that wisdom made flesh. He is aware of those who desire him. He anticipates them, and meets them at dawn, at their doorstep. And he feeds them. He satisfies their hunger.

There is tremendous restlessness in this world. We have so much around us, so many blessings, and yet we are terribly restless, seeking rest, seeking to satisfy a hunger and thirst we feel deeply within ourselves. But it is a Person we hunger and thirst for, because we were created by this Person and for this Person. And that person is Christ, but so few are aware of it.

Many people look to the Church as if the Church is some depository that contains all the answers to the world's questions. And others look to the Church as if she is the primordial social welfare system. But the Church has only one thing to give the world, and that is Christ. That's it. The specific answers to the many questions we have asked and will ask will either go unanswered for the most part, or they are slowly answered as the world makes its way through history. And, of course, the Church is not a welfare system. The Church can give only one thing: and that is Christ. In the Acts of the Apostles, we read of the man who was crippled from birth and carried every day to "the Beautiful Gate" to beg for alms: "When he saw Peter and John about to go into the temple, he asked for alms. But Peter looked intently at him, as did John, and said, 'Look at us.' He paid attention to them, expecting to receive something from them. Peter said, 'I have neither silver nor gold, but what I do have I give you: in the name of Jesus Christ the Nazorean, rise and walk.'"

The Church gives Christ. In him are contained all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge, not in us. We only come to these treasures gradually, as we grow in the Person of Christ and reflect upon our experience in the world in the light he provides us at the time, and this process takes time. And it is only by growing more deeply into him that we can begin to love the destitute as he does, to love them more than we love ourselves.

Christ alone is the answer and the solution. With Christ, we can do all things. With Christ, our hunger is satisfied. That restlessness that we experience will subside. He is all we need. At that point a new restlessness takes its place, a restful restlessness, which is nothing more than a greater and deeper love of others, a restful restlessness for the souls of others, that they may find rest.