Fr. Mike Lagrimas’ Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

In the Hands of God

Mt 14:13-21

 

A man was pleasantly surprised to see his picture in the wallet of his wife. “Oh, I did not know you keep my picture in your wallet!” “Yes,” the wife replied. “When I have a problem, I just look at it, and my problem is gone.” “Really?” the man was ecstatic. “Am I that miraculous to you?” “Oh, yes, darling!” she said. “I look at your picture and ask myself: Is there any problem bigger than this?”

All of us have problems. Nowadays, the most common problem is economic, all about money. When the bills come and we do not have enough money to pay, it invariably causes us a lot of stress and worries.

In the gospel this Sunday, the disciples were in a similar stressful situation. Before them was a very large crowd – 5,000 men, not counting women and children – and they did not have anything to feed them. That is why, when Jesus instructed them, “Give them some food yourselves”, they must have been more confused: “How can we feed these thousands of people when we have barely enough food for ourselves?”

But actually, Jesus gave this instruction to lead them to take stock of their resources and come to admit their own incapacities and helplessness. So, they looked at themselves and realized: “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” But what is that for so many people? The problem is simply beyond their capacity to solve. Thus, they turned to the Lord, and it was, indeed, the right thing to do. This reminded them of what happened in the boat while crossing the turbulent Sea of Galilee. They thought the huge waves might sink the boat, and they were in great danger of drowning. Realizing their utter helplessness, they turned to Jesus who was sleeping at the stern of the boat. They did the right thing.

One real danger we have in our present world is the temptation to become self-sufficient. Seldom do people acknowledge their incapacities and limitations. Tremendous scientific and technological advances have made many people believe in their self-sufficiency. They think and behave as if they can bring everything in this life under their control. This behavior manifests itself in the many anti-life agenda such as contraception, abortion, sterilization, cloning, and various practices in genetic engineering. People tend to resolve issues and problems through purely human efforts and resources. Definitely, the trend in the world nowadays is towards the denial and rejection of God, the fruits of man’s pride and his unwillingness to admit his limitations and weaknesses.

But no matter how hard we try, we simply cannot deny the fact that we are mortal and limited beings. There are times when our very best is never enough. Without the Lord, we are nothing: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor” (Ps 127). Jesus himself said, “I am the vine, you are the branches. Apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). When we turn to the Lord in our weakness, we gain strength. That is why St. Paul gladly admitted his weakness: “Therefore, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and constraints, for the sake of Christ; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2Cor 12:10).

This is because “God chose the foolish of the world to shame the wise, and God chose the weak of the world to shame the strong” (1Cor 1:27-28). We only need to look at the twelve apostles chosen by Jesus as the main pillars of the Church. Yet they were mostly a bunch of rough uneducated fishermen. St. Therese of the Child Jesus says that God uses weak and imperfect human instruments so that His power becomes most clearly manifest and He is glorified all the more.

Hence, this is an invitation for us to trust, not in our limited human powers and resources, but in God alone. In their moment of helplessness, the disciples turned to the Lord in full and complete trust. They believed beyond doubt that it is only Jesus who can solve their problem. And they were not mistaken. The miracle took place. For, as Peter confessed, Jesus is not just any prophet: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God” (Mt 16:16).

But Jesus did not do it alone. He asked for the obedience and cooperation of human instruments. For his disciples, it was not easy to obey. How can they feed thousands of people with only five loaves of bread? In the human mind, this is simply ridiculous and impossible. But they did not question the wisdom of his instruction. They simply obeyed, and thereby cooperated in this great miracle.

A month ago, Derek Jeter of the New York Yankees attained his record 3,000 hits in baseball. The baseball was just a simple ball. In the hands of an ordinary man, it was worth only a few dollars. But in the hands of Jeter, it was worth half a million dollars. Similarly, five loaves of bread and two fish in the hands of the disciples can only feed five persons. But in the hands of Jesus, they provided abundant meal for thousands of people. Three nails in the hands of a carpenter cannot do much to hold a house together. But three nails in the hands and feet of Jesus continue to hold the entire world together until he comes in glory.

This Sunday, let us humbly acknowledge our limitations and nothingness. And let us rejoice in gratitude as we hear the Lord’s loving invitation: “All you who are thirsty, come to the water! You, who have no money, come, receive grain and eat. Come without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk” (Is 55:1). Our resources are limited, but we are challenged to let go of them and trustingly place them in the hands of Jesus. He can solve our financial and economic woes with whatever little we have that we place in his hands. As long as we are in this world, we will always have problems, but we know and are firm in our belief that “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.”

Fr. Mike Lagrimas

St. Teresa Church

141 Henry Street

New York, NY 10002

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