18th Sunday of the year Isaiah 55:1-3; Romans 8:35, 37-39; Matthew 14:13-21 WITHIN us ALL there is an insatiable appetite for life which shows itself in many ways. The loneliness of the human spirit craves the satisfaction of loving and belonging. God draws us to himself by the unsatisfied hunger and thirst of our lives. Isaiah spoke to this famine of the heart. The catastrophe of exile had stripped Israel of all material satisfaction. Life had lost its savour. Stripped of all superficial satisfaction, the nation faced the emptiness of its own wilderness.
To such weary spirits the words of Isaiah were food and drink. "Young men may grow tired and weary, youths may stumble, but those who hope in the Lord renew their strength, they put out wings like eagles. They run and do not grow weary, walk and never tire." (Is 40: 30-31)
The God-given appetite which would bring us to God is easily distracted. In the words of Isaiah, we squander life's valuable currency on that which is not bread; on trifles which can never satisfy. Only the presence of God can feed our deepest hunger. The prophet Isaiah spoke words which fed this hunger. Week by week the scriptures proclaimed at Mass invite us to the same banquet. "Listen, listen to me, and you will have good things to eat and rich food to enjoy... listen, and your soul will live". The attentive soul is led by its hunger to the presence of God.
Matthew's account of the feeding of the 5,000 reveals Christ as the food of life. Those who ate and drank in his presence found a satisfaction which went far beyond the passing hunger of the moment. As Matthew sets the scene, the opening remarks of the disciples reveal the poverty of us all. They were confronted with a situation far beyond their limited means. They and the people were hungry. They could not feed them, so they suggested that they be sent away to buy what was necessary for themselves. Jesus countered a demand which only highlighted their own emptiness. "Give them something to eat yourselves". Our journey through life will often reveal our true poverty. At times we do not have enough faith, hope and love to sustain ourselves, let alone feed a hungry multitude. The five loaves and two fish, entrusted to Jesus, were more than enough to feed the multitude. Faith opens our poverty to Christ's abundance. The banquet to which Christ invites us does not rest in the splendour of what we bring, but in the joy of his presence.
Today's readings bring us back to the banquet set before us in the humblest celebration of the eucharist. God's Word feeds us. The presence of his Son fills our emptiness.