Give to Jesus and he gives to us

Homily for the Eighteenth Sunday of Year A

by Fr. Tommy Lane

In 1964 Fr. Rich Thomas was appointed to El Paso in Texas. Around 1969/1970 he was profoundly touched by God and started charismatic prayer meetings in the parish. Sr. Maria Virginia, DC, was also assisting in the parish. During one prayer meeting in 1972 they read the passage in Luke 14:13-14 which says, “When you give a lunch or a dinner, do not invite your friends or your brothers or your relations or rich neighbors, in case they invite you back and so repay you. Now when you have a party, invite the poor… for they have no means to repay you and so you will be repaid when the upright rise again.” The prayer meeting decided that on Christmas day that year, 1972, they would give a Christmas lunch to the poor who lived and worked in the dump in Juarez, just across the border in Mexico. The poor people in the dump used to separate the trash into various kinds, cans, bottles, cardboard etc and then sell it to a co-op which would in turn sell it on. They lived in the dump and worked 7 days a week for $5. The prayer group had prepared food for 125 people on Christmas Day. When they got to the dump Fr. Rich and the group discovered that they had two labor unions. One union could not go into the other’s area. Eventually Fr. Rich got them to come to one area for the food. Three hundred and fifty people turned up so Fr. Rich explained that there was not enough food for everyone but they would share what they had. All 350 had enough food. The dump people took some food home and then came back to take more home. They returned and took more home again. There was still lots of food left over, so much that Fr. Rich and the prayer group took the leftover food to three orphanages. The miracle of the loaves and fish that we heard in the Gospel today (Matt 14:31-21) was repeated in the dump in Juarez, Mexico in 1972. The words of our first reading today mean so much in this context also,

“Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.” (Isa 55:1)

It is not the only time a miracle happened in the dump in Juarez; that miracle of multiplication of food was repeated there many times, e.g. on another occasion they didn’t have enough cartons of milk for everyone but when they came to the end of handing out cartons, everyone had a carton of milk. After the miracle on Christmas Day 1972 a beautiful Christian community grew up in the dump and many wonderful events have taken place since then.

The Lord wants to give us his blessings too. In the Gospel today the Lord gave his blessings to the people (Matt 14:13-21). But the people had made a sacrifice first. They had left their towns and gone on foot after him. In El Paso, Fr. Rich Thomas and Sr. Maria Virginia had given themselves totally to the Lord and were the most liberated of people and were blessed to witness many miracles in Juarez. When we give ourselves to the Lord, the Lord enriches us with many blessings. Let us listen again to the beautiful words of our first reading,

“Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.” (Isa 55:1-2)

There are so many ways we can spend on what fails to satisfy. Think of the amount of time wasted watching TV. Instead of spending on what fails to satisfy, as the people in today’s Gospel did, leave your town and go on foot to Jesus and he will feed you. And as happened in Galilee and in Juarez, there will be more blessings than you need. I am sure each one of us here can identify with that. We have all gone to the Lord and he has fed us and we were surprised that he gave us more than we needed. Think of the way people waste money on all sorts of rubbish. Use your money for the spread of the kingdom of God; the prayer associated with St. Francis says that when we give we receive. Think of the billions of hours that people all over the world spend reading every year, and much of it concerning matters that will not help us get to heaven. Compare that with what Jesus said to the devil in the desert, “Man does not live on bread alone but on every word that comes from the mouth of God.” (Matt 4:4)

When we give ourselves to Jesus he gives himself to us. Do those who complain that the Mass is boring come to Mass wishing to give themselves to Jesus? If you want the Mass not to be boring, give yourself to Jesus, and then you will receive Jesus. Then the Mass will not be boring. Jesus is the bread of life who wants to feed us. Let us leave the town and go on foot to Jesus and he will perform a miracle in our lives as he did in the lives of Fr. Rich Thomas and Sr. Maria Virginia.

“Oh, come to the water all you who are thirsty;
though you have no money, come!
Buy corn without money, and eat,
and, at no cost, wine and milk.
Why spend money on what fails to satisfy?
Listen, listen to me and you will have good things to eat
and rich food to enjoy.” (Isa 55:1-2)

 (The miracle of Juarez is the subject of the video "Viva Cristo Rey" which is available from International Films, 235 Shaftesbury Avenue, London WC2H 8EL. It is produced by Catholic Charismatic Services Inc, USA.)

Copyright © Fr. Tommy Lane 2013

This homily was delivered when I was engaged in parish ministry in Ireland before joining the faculty of Mount St. Mary’s Seminary, Emmitsburg, Maryland.

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