Saturday, August 30, 2014

The Cross: A Homily for the 22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rev. Fr. Kyle L. Doustou                                                      22nd Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

August 30-31, 2014

The Cross. It’s the predominant symbol of Christianity. It appears on church walls and steeples…it hangs over our beds and over our hearts. It appears in our hospitals and is peppered throughout our cemeteries. It might be made out of wood or stone, maybe even gold or silver…it might be very plain or very elaborate, it might be beautiful or maybe even grotesque. It could be big…it could be small. It could be calming or it could be gut-wrenching. Whatever form it might take, however it might make us feel, wherever we might encounter it…that simple intersection of vertical and horizontal beams has affected the entire world. Once the torture device of ancient peoples, the means by which criminals were executed, the cross has waded its way through time to become a symbol of peace and love. And why? Jesus Christ picked it up and placed it on His shoulders. Jesus Christ fell under its weight. Jesus Christ allowed Himself to be nailed to it. Jesus Christ hung on it in agony. Jesus Christ literally bathed it in His own sweat and blood. Jesus Christ, the Son of the living God, died on it. It is only because of His sacrifice, only because of His self-denial, only because of His unbelievably infinite love that those two ridiculous and wretched beams have any significance.

This is not some fairy tale or well-crafted story, and yet how easy it is for us to reduce it to just that. The cross, almost omnipresent in our lives serving as a reminder of the great act of love of the God-man, is so easily forgotten about and missed, or even worse, belittled. When Jesus is reduced to a peace-loving hippie…the cross of Christ is belittled. When the gospel is reduced to a story about love and tolerance, devoid of any substance or challenge…the cross of Christ is belittled. When we take our Christian faith for granted, limiting it to the hour we spend in church on Sundays (if we even do that much!); when we care more about “fitting in” with and pleasing others than we care about Christ; when we endeavor to secure for ourselves human respect, human acceptance, and human admiration, at the expense of our relationship with God…the cross of Christ is belittled. That sign of pure sacrifice, pure self-denial, and pure love is reduced to a charming little lawn ornament, a pretty piece of jewelry, or an antiquated church decoration when we fail to allow its power and glory to saturate the whole of our lives.

In our Gospel today, Jesus clearly articulates the cost of being His disciple: “whoever wishes to come after me must deny himself, take up his cross, and follow me.” The cost of discipleship is no less than what the Master Himself has paid…His very life. When He exhorts us to take up our crosses, He’s not referring to a wall ornament or a necklace, but the heavy intersected beams of self-sacrifice and self-denial. The Christian life is defined by this cross and no other. And it is for this reason, and this reason alone, that the cross is represented all around us: to be a constant reminder of the price of God’s intense love for us and the response that we owe. If we are not willing to lay down our lives as He did, then what right or reason have we to even gaze upon its representation? It becomes a silly and meaningless symbol.

All around you, at any given moment, there is a world in desperate need of you. It doesn’t need you to be wonderful and smart…it doesn’t need you to be beautiful and popular and successful…it doesn’t need you to “be yourself” or to “be unique.” It needs you to be what the cross symbolizes: a living embodiment of love, self-sacrifice, and self-denial. By His cross, Christ made known His great love for us and offered His salvation to the world…and by the cross that He asks each and every one of us to take up, He continues to make this love and salvation known. If we don’t take up our crosses, we can’t do this…truth will not spread; the hungry will not be fed; the sick will not be cared for; the poor will be ignored; the marginalized will be forgotten. There is no “happy medium” between selfishness and selflessness…our Lord exhorts us to be hot or cold, all in or all out. We need His cross to do this…we need the power of His cross to transform us and make us willing to carry and die on our own crosses for the sake of others.

The power and glory of the cross comes to us every time we celebrate the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Christ makes known to us, in giving us His own flesh and blood, that it is only through death that we can ever hope to have life. Look to the cross today in this Holy Mass and ask Christ to make you ready and willing to embrace it. Don’t let the cross fade into the background of your life…don’t let it be belittled by your own complacency. Accept that you were made for love and for nothing else, and then like your God, pour out your love on your own cross of self-sacrifice and self-denial. Live for God and live for others…die to yourself, and you will have everlasting life.

Saturday, August 16, 2014

Perseverance in Prayer

Rev. Fr. Kyle L. Doustou                                                         20th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

August 16-17, 2014

Perseverance in Prayer

“For me, prayer is a surge of the heart; it is a simple look turned toward heaven,
it is a cry of recognition and of love, embracing both trial and joy.”

These words, once uttered by the Little Flower, St. Thérèse of Lisieux, offer us a beautiful insight into the activity of prayer. For Catholics, prayer is at the heart of everything we do and, more importantly, everything we are. Whether we’re at Mass joining ourselves to the great prayer of Christ to God the Father or at home meditating on the mysteries of the rosary…whether we’re getting ready for work or putting the kids to bed…whether we’re elated with joy or depressed with sorrow…as faithful people we are, or at least we should be, always gazing toward heaven, expressing not only with our words but our whole lives our praise, our adoration, and our love for God. Every minute of every day, no matter what we’re doing or how we’re feeling, is for us an opportunity to raise our minds and our hearts to God and to commune with Him. And when we make this conscious effort, when we deliberately choose to sanctify our day by inviting God to exercise His sovereignty over the moments of our life…this is what it means to pray.

But, let’s just be honest for a moment…this is easier said than done. Like faith itself, prayer is certainly a gift from God, a gift that stirs us up and causes us to want to seek the Lord. He gives this gift freely and abundantly to His people, but this requires a response on our part. And this is where things become difficult. Because we are not merely spiritual beings but are robed in flesh and blood, and because we all suffer from the effects of original sin, our wills are weak and prayer becomes difficult. Like with so many other things in life, if we don’t get immediate results, if we’re not immediately stimulated by something, it’s hard to do it. It’s easy to lay on the couch and eat potato chips, but it’s extraordinarily difficult to get up and exercise. It’s easy to gorge ourselves on chocolate cake and other sweets, but it’s painfully hard to eat healthy food. It’s easy to sleep in on Sunday mornings, but agonizingly difficult to get out of bed and get to Mass. So often it’s the case that we know what we should, but we lack the firm desire or the discipline to actually will to do it. And prayer is no exception. Everybody here today knows that prayer is essential, but my guess is that many of us lack the discipline to pray well. For this reason, the saints, those who through the grace of God and the constant effort of their whole lives have become true masters of prayer, describe prayer as a battle. It’s a battle against ourselves and our human weakness and it’s a battle against Satan who is constantly tempting us away from prayer with the allurements of earthly pleasures. To pray well, we have to make the firm decision to just do it. We have to discipline ourselves, at times, to forego things that we’d otherwise like to do…even if they’re good things and certainly if they’re bad…to forego and to just pray.

Often times we can enter into a rich life of prayer after we’ve been moved in a significant way. Retreats are often the instigators of this. Any number of people here have been on a Cursillo or ACTS retreat and have experienced a superabundance of grace that propelled them into prayer. Sometimes a really thorough Confession, or the reception of any of the other Sacraments, can do the same. Sometimes we can read an inspiring book or hear a powerful witness talk and be moved to pray. The Lord uses these experiences to reignite our faith and to fill us up so that we want to pray…but like any other experiences, there “felt-effects” can and almost often do wear off. And for this reason, we have to be extremely careful that we’re not relying too much on how we feel when it comes to prayer. Because prayer is about communion with God, the raising of our hearts and minds to our Creator will necessarily encapsulate the whole range of our humanity. As human beings we are joyful and sorrowful, excited and fearful…we can experience great happiness and are susceptible to great pains. God wants our attention and our love no matter how we’re feeling; and He wants our attention and our love even if turning to Him in prayer does not make us “feel” better. We turn to Him because He is the source of our being…He completes us and makes us whole. We turn to Him because He is God and we are creatures. We turn to Him because, in the words of St. Peter, where else are we going to turn? The Lord alone has the words of everlasting life. We don’t pray because we feel good and spiritual, and we don’t pray to feel better. We pray because we were made to pray. But this takes hard work, discipline, and sacrifice.

The greatest act of prayer that ever occurred or will ever occur is the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary. It was miserable, painstaking, and horrific for Him, but He nonetheless hung upon the cross in agony and offered Himself up to the Father as a sacrifice of love. So powerful was this prayer, the prayer of the God-Man, that it truly and actually reconciled God and man. His death on the cross is precisely what enables us, who have been baptized into His death, to offer ourselves now as a sacrifice to the Father. Every act of prayer, then, is an experience of the cross…we have to be willing to accept, then, that prayer will always be a sacrifice.

The woman in today’s Gospel shows us how to persevere in prayer. Despite her great suffering, and despite the obstacles in her way, she had her eyes set on the Lord. She beautifully shows us how patience and humility are necessary elements in communing with God; she knows that He alone can make her life whole and complete. And so she runs to Him, not sulking away in discouragement when it seemed like she wouldn’t get to Him or that He wasn’t listening, but persevering to the end.

 So ask yourself today: where are you at? Do you pray? Do you turn to God like you would Santa Clause, only to get things that you want…or do you turn to Him in love, to commune with Him? Do you make a conscious and disciplined effort to devote specific moments every day to commune with Him in prayer? Do you sanctify the rest of your day by turning your heart and mind to Him in the midst of your routines, your duties, and your leisure? Do you sacrifice yourself out of love for Him, just as He sacrificed Himself out of love for you? Do you run after Him just as the woman in the Gospel did? If not…what are you waiting for? Prayer is a battle…and it’s a battle that we can either lose or win. If we do not pray, if we do not commune with God in this life, we will not have life with Him in the next. But if we do pray, if we discipline ourselves and fight the good fight, if we preserve in prayer, then the happiness and fulfillment that we are so desperately seeking in this life will be given to us in the next, when we see our God, the object of our love, face to face.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

The Assumption of Mary: A Sign of Hope for Us

Rev. Fr. Kyle L. Doustou                                                             Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary

August 15, 2014

For today the Virgin Mother of God was assumed into heaven as the beginning and image of your Church’s coming to perfection and as a sign of sure hope and comfort to your pilgrim people; rightly you would not allow her to see the corruption of the tomb since from her body she marvelously brought forth your incarnate Son, the Author of all life.

These hauntingly beautiful words, taken from the Preface for today and which will be sung in an ode of joy to God the Father in just a few moments, perfectly encapsulate why it is that we are here this evening. Summer is quickly coming to a close…there is still much fun to be had and vacationing to do. But this evening we pause …we break from our activities and, filled with wonder and awe, we commemorate this wondrous feast day of the Blessed Virgin Mary. This evening we meditate upon the great mystery of her glorious assumption into heaven, wherein we consider that the handmaiden of Nazareth, the woman who gave to our Savior His flesh, has been raised by God, both body and soul, into the glories of heaven.

Two-thousand years ago a little girl was asked a question that would change the world forever. Hardly older than thirteen years-old, she was asked if she would forgo her own plans, her own dreams, her own hopes and desires, to become a mother. Gabriel, the angel of the Lord, awaited her response on behalf of all creation…he awaited her response on behalf of a God so madly, so desperately in love with fallen humanity. Time and eternity froze as she contemplated what was being asked of her. The fear that must have rushed through her soul…the apprehension…the anxiety…the uncertainty. The very price and weight of our salvation was placed upon her shoulders in that moment. If she said yes, all of creation would be set free and live…but at what personal cost to her? What if she endured humiliation or even worse for conceiving a child out of wedlock? What if Joseph, her betrothed, would fail to understand and would leave her? What of the life she hoped to build for herself? For us, these questions and uncertainties would surely have propelled us into a state of indecision…we’d have to call our friends and family, we’d have to weigh the pros and cons…it would take time, a lot of time, for us to make our choice. But not for her. After only a pause, after an eternal consideration that lasted in time for but a moment, her pure and holy heart swelled with an incomparable love for God and her soul sang forth a resounding yes. And the age of our salvation began. God tore open His Heavens, and in an instant made His dwelling in the womb of this young maiden. She handed her body over to Him…a creature of flesh and blood gave to the invisible God the means by which He would be made visible to the world. She gave to Him the very flesh and blood that would cure the sick, feed the hungry, and raise the dead…she gave to Him the very flesh and blood that would suffer and die for our sake…she gave to Him the very flesh and blood that would be raised on the third day. Because of her yes, God could become one of us, like us in all things but sin…He could take on our human nature…the very nature he received from her…He could redeem, save it, and raise it up in glory.

Is it any wonder, then, considering that He received His flesh, His human nature, from the maiden of Nazareth, that He would raise her up…in the flesh…into the glories of His heavenly kingdom when her earthly life was complete? Is it any wonder that He would preserve her from the sting of death and corruption, she who He first preserved from all stain of sin? In an act of great love for His Mother, the God of Heaven and Earth, the God Who is now and will forever be both God and Man, raised up her earthly body, glorified it, and crowned her the Queen of Heaven.

The great mystery of Mary’s assumption into heaven is not merely something for us to consider, to meditate upon, and to think about; it’s a sign of hope for us…a sign of things to come. If we can mirror Mary’s faithfulness…if we can respond, as she did, with a resounding yes to our Lord’s invitation of love…if we persevere in steadfast faith, great hope, and lasting charity …then on the last day, when the trumpet sounds, He will raise up our earthly bodies from the grave and glorify them. He will crown us and make us everlasting heirs of His kingdom.

And so, let us go to Mary…let us go to her and ask her to lead us to her Son. She, more than anyone else in creation, knows what it means to love, know, and serve Him. Let us ask her to teach us to be humble, to be pure, and to be holy. Let us ask her to show us how to give of ourselves so completely, without counting the cost…let us ask her to strengthen us in our resolve to courageously to fight the good fight. Never has she refused those who come to her…she didn’t refuse the Angel Gabriel and she’ll never refuse us. Inspired by this confidence, we ask her to embrace us in the mantle of her Motherly love and to present us to her Son as we cry out: Glorious things are said of you, O Mary, who today were exalted above the choirs of Angels into eternal triumph with Christ.

Saturday, August 9, 2014

What is Faith? A Homily for the 19th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Rev. Fr. Kyle L. Doustou                                                           19th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

August 9-10, 2014
The Virtue of Faith

Faith. We hear this word all the time. We hear it in church and in hospital rooms, at graduation ceremonies and sporting events; we hear it used seriously and we hear it used casually. It’s used in a whisper said to a loved one struggling with illness – “I have faith that you’ll get through this”- and it’s used in Billy Joel’s 1983 hit “Keeping the Faith.” It’s a word that seems to be used to respond to any situation in life where something is going wrong, or where someone just needs a bit of encouragement. Like most words that begin to be used commonly and casually, it can come to mean just about whatever we want it to mean, so long as it conveys the same general sentiment. I suppose there’s nothing too wrong with one word taking on so many different meanings, but it does pose a danger when it’s a word that is at the heart of Christianity. And if ever there was such a word, it’s faith.

What does faith mean, then, in a Christian context? What is Jesus getting at when he admonishes Peter for being of little faith? Does faith simply mean believing in or assenting to a set of teachings and doctrines? Does faith simply mean believing in God and in Jesus Christ? Unfortunately for many of us Catholics, we can tend to think of faith, our faith, at a very base level. So long as I have some belief in God, so long as I go to Mass when I can (or really, when I want to), so long as I say a rosary every now and then and try to be a good person, then I have faith. While there’s some truth to this, we don’t want to short-change ourselves. There’s more to faith than belief. One can believe every doctrine, every passage of Scripture, and every single bit of God’s revelation, but still have no faith.

Our Gospel this morning helps to set the general framework for understanding what faith is. In the midst of a terrible storm on the Sea of Galilee, from the midst of his own terrible fear, Peter catches a glimpse of our Lord walking on the water. Surely his eyes deceive him! How can someone walk on water? This defies everything he knows and understands. And yet, here is Jesus…doing exactly that. So Peter cries out, partly from his fear and partly from his amazement, “Lord, if that’s you out there…if that’s truly you out there walking on water…then let me come out there and do the same!” And so the Lord allows it and to his astonishment Peter does it. But soon he realizes just how incredible and nonsensical this is, and begins to sink. This time, again from fear and distress, he cries out for the Lord to save him, and Jesus does. And pulling him out of the water, Jesus says, “O you of little faith, why did you doubt?”

Faith is an’s an action. It’s not a sentiment, it’s not a feeling, and it’s not a set of beliefs. It is something that is done in us and it is something that we do. Faith is a gift and it is a choice…it is an offer from God for friendship with Him, and it’s an offer that requires acceptance and work on our part.

On that night in the Sea of Galilee, Jesus Christ revealed Himself to Peter and the other disciples. By word and deed, the Divine Son of God manifested Himself to a bunch of fisherman…showing forth His Divinity and calling them to see and to believe. With hand extended, the Lord of heaven and earth called Peter forth from the boat to the water. He called him forth from a vessel made by human hands and ingenuity, a vessel that was now no match for the might of nature, and into the waters of the Sea…the very waters made by God’s hand and creativity. Peter responded…he left the failing certainty of his boat and entered into a new world…a world where his certainty would have limits, where his knowledge and understanding would only take him so far. And with eyes set on his Mysterious and Divine Friend, he began to tread the waters. The Lord revealed Himself and called, and Peter answered. But this activity would be short-lived…Peter would soon take his eyes off of Jesus and long for his own certainty and knowledge once again. And so he sank.

Though God no longer appears to His people according to sight, as He did on the sea, He does continue to manifest Himself by His Word. The invisible God, from the fullness of His love, address us as His friends, He moves among us and invites us into friendship with Him. He speaks to the human heart…in the midst of its joys and sufferings, in the midst of its peace and fear…and He calls us out of our boats, out of our certainty, to enter into a world of friendship that surpasses our wildest dreams. This is a gift…and it is a gift that He offers freely to every man, woman, and child. There is not a human heart that has ever beaten, is beating, or will beat that has not also felt in its innermost chambers the movement and stirrings of God. And when we do get out of the boat, when we begin moving after we recognize that He has moved us…this is faith. And though we go forth from the boat of certainty and unbelief to the waters of faith, though we plunge ourselves into this exchange without the benefit of seeing, we do not go forth blind. He gives us the Church to help direct us as we encounter these stirrings and movements…He gives us the Holy Scriptures and the teachings of the Church to help us make sense of it all and to direct us out of the boat. He gives us great saints who can, by their words and deeds, beautifully attest to the wonderful reality that awaits us. But faith is still an activity, and so it requires our response. It requires us to submit our intellects and our wills to God…to risk the comfortable, but temporal and fickle certainty of our boats, and to admit in humility that there is more to life than what we can see, and measure, and understand.

St. Thomas Aquinas, one of the most brilliant theologians and mystics of all time, said that, “Faith is a habit of the mind whereby eternal life is begun in us making the intellect assent to what is non-apparent.” In other words, having been moved and stirred up by God Himself, we are presented with a choice: will I follow this movement or will I write it off and ignore it? When we choose to believe, when we choose to cooperate with this great gift, we must continually and habitually choose it anew every moment of every day. Peter had little faith because for him it was not yet a habit…it did not flow from his daily effort to respond and to surrender his precious certainty to God. But after some time, after continuing to experience the profound movement of God in His life, Peter would have great faith…so great that he would give his life for it.

And the same can be true for all of us. The Lord is moving about alongside us as our hearts brave the stormy seas of life. He speaks to us, as He did to Peter, and He calls us out of our boats, out of ourselves, and into friendship with Him. We should ask ourselves now, as He manifests Himself on this holy altar: are we willing to risk it all and to get out of our boats? If so, then we can begin a journey of becoming people of great faith.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

A Tale of Two Baptisms

It was the best of times, it was the...

No, actually, it really was just the best of times.

This past Sunday I had the opportunity to celebrate the Sacrament of Baptism twice. From an outsider's perspective, they would have seemed to be your regular old run-of-the-mill baptisms: oil, water, fire, babies, crying, smiling, spitting up, you know the deal. But they were two very different experiences and I think they're worth sharing.

Baptism #1 - Here I can be seen trying
to entertain Ella after Mass.
The first baptism took place during the 11:00 morning Mass at St. Louis Church in Limestone. Two beautiful baby girls were the recipients of this holy sacrament: Ella Elizabeth, who is six months old, and Harper Ann, who is three months old. They were cousins, they were tiny, and they were absolutely adorable. 

I celebrated this baptism, as you can well imagine, according to the 1970 Rite of Baptism of Children, with the particular adaptations for being celebrated at Mass. Everything went swimmingly...the babies were quiet during Mass and actually slept through the administration of the Sacrament. Usually water+oil+fire+baby = disaster, but this was textbook perfect! After Mass the girls, just like the little saints they are now, let me hold them without any problem. 

All-in-all, a moving and beautiful experience...a true success!

The Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul, on behalf
of the entire Catholic Church, waits patiently
to welcome little Dietrich. 
Then I hopped in the car and drove for the next five hours to Lewiston, my home town, for the second baptism. My good friends, Leon and Cassi Griesbach, recently welcomed their third child and first-born son, Dietrich Maximus (yes...that's his name.!) into the world. Leon has the enviable task of being the director of music at the Pontifical North American College in Rome, where he and Cassi have been raising their two beautiful daughters and where Dietrich was born. Can you imagine being born in Rome? It's just not fair...

Anyway, while on summer hiatus, the Griesbach's wanted to fulfill their duty as Christian parents and have their little pagan made into a Christian. I thought for sure they'd ask Father Seamus Griesbach (Leon's brother and a good friend of mine) to administer baptism, but it turns out they asked him to be the godfather...and since there's no double-dipping they turned to me. I was more than happy to oblige!

The precise moment when  Dietrich Maximus
was transformed by God's grace.
The baptism took place at the Basilica of Sts. Peter and Paul in home parish, the church of my priestly ordination, the church of my first Mass. Just walking back into it flooded me with memories...and now here I was, as a visiting priest, to celebrate baptism. Unlike my earlier baptism, this baptism was celebrated according to the 1961 Rituale Romanum. In 2007, Pope Benedict XVI granted permission to all priests to celebrate the Mass and the Sacraments as they were celebrated prior to the beginning of the Second Vatican Council. Given my own proclivities, and the proclivities of the involved parties, it was decided that we'd use the older ritual for the administration of baptism. And it was fantastic. 

As a priest, the first Mass I celebrated was the older Mass (commonly called the Traditional Latin Mass or the Tridentine Mass) and every Monday on my day off I get to celebrate this Mass. I've also had the opportunity to hear confessions and to anoint the sick/dying in the older rite, but this was the first time as a priest I had the opportunity to celebrate a baptism in the older rite. Since we celebrate the feast of St. John Vianney this week, who is one of my personal patrons and the patron of all priests, it struck me during this baptism that this was the precise manner in which he would have been baptized and in which he would have baptized. It nearly took my breath away. Humbling, beautiful, and amazing!

So two baptisms...two churches 280 miles apart...two different rituals...two different single effect: the doors of salvation were opened to these children and the floodgates of heaven poured an abundance of divine grace into their souls. And it happened through my hands. 

God be praised...

Saturday, August 2, 2014

He fed how many? This Weekend's Homily

I thought that it might be of some use to post my homilies on here. Here's the one from this weekend:

Rev. Fr. Kyle L. Doustou
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year A

August 2-3, 2014
The Feeding of the Five-Thousand

Do you believe in miracles? In a world where rationalism and science are treated as the only real sources of knowledge, belief in miracles has dissipated before our very eyes. For the scientist, for the rationalist, for the 21st century “enlightened” mind, a so-called “miracle” is a misnomer…miracles are only unexplained phenomena, events that occur for which science or reason has only yet to find an explanation. It’s convenient for us to reduce miracles like this, because if we rob them of their mystery, or at least attempt to rob them of their mystery, we gain control over life and nature. If there is at least the possibility of discerning a scientific reason for an unexplained phenomenon, then there is the hope that human ingenuity could replicate it, that society could be bettered, and that humankind can proclaim itself the victor and king over nature. Now don’t get me wrong, science and reason are not bad things…they are extremely important, but they have their place. What becomes problematic is when we subject everything to scientific or rationalistic scrutiny. Our own egos and the fallacious belief that the human mind knows no bounds is precisely the reason why miracles are laughed off and scoffed at in today’s day and age. We lack the humility to admit that there are things that happen that we can’t explain, and won’t ever be able to explain…at least in this life.

But to be honest, we’re not completely unique when it comes to this mentality. Although we like to think of people in the ancient world as superstitious and uneducated, the truth is that they were, in so many ways, just as scientifically-minded and, unfortunately, just as arrogant as we are today in our “progressive” and “sophisticated” society. And in this morning’s Gospel we get a glimpse of this.

Our Lord, His disciples, and a vast crowd are in a deserted place…and the Lord is teaching. After a long day, evening has fallen and soon stomachs begin to growl. Despite the fact that the Lord has been curing the sick before their eyes that very same day, despite the fact that they have been journeying with Him for awhile now and have seen Him work many miracles, the disciples are struck with anxiety. The people are hungry, and the disciples are worried that if they don’t leave to get something to eat they’ll starve. Instead of turning to the God of power who was right there with them in the flesh, instead of trusting that Jesus Christ would care for them and tend to even their basic needs, they turn to Him and begin to whine and complain. “It’s dark…we’re hungry…we’re in the middle of nowhere. Can you just finish up so that we can all get out of here and go get something to eat?” In other words, the disciples would rather everyone go away and abandon the Lord for the sake of their bellies. In their hearts they do not believe and they don’t trust. The words of Psalm 78: 18-19 come to mind: “They tested God in their hearts, demanding the food they craved. They spoke against God and said, ‘Can God spread a table in the wilderness?’”

But the Lord would not allow the disciple’s lack of faith to deter Him from to tending to His people. In His love and power as God the Son, as the Second Person of the Holy Trinity, in an unexplainable and miraculous manner, Jesus Christ, the Lord of heaven and earth, fed the vast crowds with a superabundance of food. Just as the Israelites were given manna and quail in the desert in the midst of their hunger, so too were those who gathered around the Lord that day in that deserted place…all five-thousand men, without even counting the women and children. Some modern theologians, themselves infected by the same spirit of unbelief, have sought to undermine the miraculous nature of this event with idle speculation. They have posited that the real miracle was that Jesus just got everybody to share their food with everyone else, and that when they did there was more than enough to go around. This is nonsense…it comes from a desire to deny that God, not us, enjoys total power over all of creation. Our Gospel today calls us to see this power, the power of the Son of God, and to revere it.

The miracle of the feeding of the five-thousand, however, was not done by our Lord simply for the sake of feeding hungry people. And it wasn’t done simply to ignite the faith of the disbelieving disciples. That was surely part of it, but there was another, more ultimate purpose to this great miracle. It showed forth the great generosity of God, Who always gives in superabundance, and for this reason would beautifully foreshadow the greatest gift of superabundance the Lord would ever give to the world: His own Body and Blood. In an act of infinite love, the God Who fed the multitudes in the desert, handed over His own Body to death and shed His precious Blood on the cross…and now He feeds us, nourishes us, and gives us life with this same Body and Blood in the Most Holy Eucharist.

But unlike for those who witnessed the feeding of the five-thousand, our eyes betray us…the great miracle of the Eucharist is a hidden miracle, seen only with the eyes of faith. In a few moments, right here on this holy altar, the Only-begotten Son of God miraculously will be present, truly, really, and substantially, under the appearance of bread and wine. He comes to us to save us and to give us life, to join us to His sufferings on Calvary, and to give us a foretaste of the Kingdom of Heaven. So, if you believe in miracles…if you truly believe that God can do anything…then bow down not only your knees but your hearts and come receive the greatest miracle of all.