16th Sunday in Ordinary Time—Year B

Their boat set out for a deserted place along the Sea of Galilee. But the word got out and lots of people “hastened” there, that is, they eagerly ran on foot, and arrived there faster than Jesus and the apostles could.

Why did those people run? They ran because they anticipated good things. They ran because they believed their desires would be fulfilled. In a word, they ran because Jesus and the Apostles had given them hope.

What can we hope for as Christians? Can we hope that if we stay close to Christ and to His Church that we’ll go to heaven someday?   Yes.  But is that all there is?  No. Our hope in Christ is not only for the time beginning once we’ve died.

Moments ago we heard Psalm 23, a psalm commonly heard at funerals. Though we tend to associate it with the holy dead, the blessings this psalm speaks of are for the living as well. For example, in the Gospel, Jesus leads the Apostles to a place beside restful waters to refresh their souls. He teaches the vast crowds that come many things, guiding them in right paths, and giving them courage. He has the people lay upon the green grass and, breaking bread, He spreads a meal before them.

We can confidently hope that Jesus will do these things for us.

Jesus wants to give you peace.  But what is peace? It means, in part, being liberated from worthless worry, having anxiety at all. As Christ inspired St. Paul to write the Philippians,

“Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God.  Then the peace of God that surpasses all understanding will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”

Jesus wants to teach you wisdom, and give you the courage you need to live it. Jesus Christ, teaching through our Church and its Scriptures, proclaims to you truths that the world doesn’t know and isn’t going to teach you. Jesus not only tells you how to live well but empowers you to do it too through the Holy Spirit alive within you.

Jesus wants to give you the bread you need. In a few moments, you will be receiving the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus Christ in His Eucharist. And in addition to that, Jesus doesn’t only provide for you on this one day at Church. He provides for us all week long in the world out there. We pray for “daily bread”, and this is not just food, but whatever it is we need. Christ is rich, and wants to give you good things. If we a frugal and generous, He will provide us with whatever we need.

There is a lot of hopelessness about our times and the way things are headed, but we Christians should live with hope about our lives and about the world we live in. Now bad things are going to happen, but with Christ, a more glorious resurrection always follows the cross. With this truth in mind, we should be a people of hope.

At the same time, we should be wary of unchristian hopes, which are too worldly. Consider the crowds that eagerly flocked to Jesus. They held hope in this world because of Him. Unfortunately, their hope was often because they thought Jesus might become some militant, revolutionary messiah, who would ascend to the throne of David by slaying the Roman armies that occupied Israel. They were invested in hopes that he would establish a kingdom for Israel that would provide them with cheap food and easy money for the rest of their lives. John’s Gospel says that after the miracle of the loaves they wanted to carry Jesus off and make him king. The people wanted change, but Jesus wasn’t interested in their kind of change. Jesus knew that changing this world would be ultimately fruitless, unless we ourselves could first somehow be changed.

Our world is broken, but man is more broken more by sin. Give two sisters identical dolls, or give two brothers identical trucks, and a short time later you might come back to find them fighting over the exact same toy. Even if you handed everyone on earth everything they wanted, there would not be peace. The problem isn’t out there somewhere, the problems always in here. Money can do good things, but wealth in not our salvation. Good laws can help people, but politics are not our salvation. Christ is our salvation.

Christ is real and active with power in the world out there, but He tends to work from the inside-out.  That is to say, the kind of change that He is interested in usually begins within souls, like ours. Christ first changes Christians, and then through us, He transforms the world.

He wants to give us trusting peace inside, so we can live with freedom. He wants to give us contentment inside, as the antidote for our over-consumption. But first and foremost of all, He wants to give you prayer inside.

If you only hear one thing I say, this is the final and most important thing: A Christian has to pray, every single day. Daily prayer is the means to our conversion. Daily prayer is the first step to transforming our world. Daily prayer is the key to realizing our hopes, for this life and the next.

Christ has good things He wants to give you. So run to Him, with eager hope.


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