8th Sunday of Pentecost:

Feeding of the Five Thousand

In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. 

Today we hear our Lord is preaching in a desert place, healing people,
and the day becomes late; so his disciples say to him, ?This is a desert
place; the time is now past.  Send the multitude away, that they may go
into the villages and buy themselves food.¦ [Matt 14-15b]  There-s
always an inner meaning to the gospel and an apparent meaning.  And we
should be careful to be able to understand not just the apparent meaning
but also the spiritual meaning of everything that is in God-s word.  We
should also be careful to v when we read the Gospel, the Epistles, all
the Old Testament; the entire Bible v to see where these words might
apply to ourselves.  Truly the word of God is powerful, and truly it can
enlighten a man; but only if we read it with desire, with faith, with
intensity, with attention.  

Now the apparent meaning is easy here: it-s a desert place, it-s late,
there-s no food around, the people are hungry; send them into the town,
that-s where you can get food; you can get food in the town; you can-t
get food out in the middle of the wilderness, so go into the town and
buy-have them buy food; we don-t have enough food for them.  But there
is an inner meaning that we should understand.  Don-t we all have desert
places?  Haven-t we all been in the desert before?  What desert are we
speaking of here?  Isn-t it the desert inside our soul?  Where it feels
hot, dry, stony, where we have troubles, difficulties, sometimes lack of
faith, fear; isn-t that a desert place?  Don-t we all sometimes have
this desert in us?  What is a desert?  It-s where there is so little
water, very little grows; it is very difficult to eke out a life in the
desert; but it can be done; it can be done with difficulty.

Now, if we, when we are in our desert place - that is, when we are
lonely because we are trying to stand for righteousness because everyone
around us is not; or when we have some sin that we wish we could stop
but we can-t; or when we-re depressed, or when the cares of life seem to
crush us, too much going on, too much to handle; and there are many
other things that can have us be in a desert - sometimes we pray to God
and we don-t hear an answer, sometimes we desire something greatly for
ourselves or for another person - something that is good, not something
that is selfish v and it doesn-t happen.  These are all desert places. 
If when we are in our desert place we go into the town to find food for
ourselves then we miss the miracle.  Going into the town is reacting to
the things that trouble us by worldly entertainments, or by-or by
inattention, by - if we have trouble - if we pray -n pray -n pray and it
doesn-t happen and we stop praying; that-s like going into the town. 
When a person has a sin that they can not stop, instead of continuing to
fight against it, they give into it.  That-s going into the town.  When
everyone around us is not believing, is not standing for righteousness,
and we are afraid to offend, so we kind of change our way of-at least
our way of acting around them, then we-re going into the town to get
food for ourselves.  The Lord said, ?They don-t need to go away.¦ [Matt
14:16]  That is, you don-t need to go away.  When you are in the desert,
you can stay.

Now the fact of life is this that in the Christian life a Christian who
has a heart for God will feel the desert often, because there is this
warring of the flesh against the Spirit.  It makes us tired.  Sometimes
it-s had to think that we are going to have success.  It gets lonely. 
Think of Elias.  Right after he had this great victory where the
prophets of Baal could not cause the sacrifice to be consumed; and after
having those-all the water put on the sacrifice, the Lord through the
prayers of Elias consumed the whole sacrifice, and the altar and the
water, and all the prophets of Baal, the 500, were put to death, [I
Kings 18:20-40] then what happens?  Well, he knew that most of Israel
had gone after Baal, the pagan god, a demon, and he got lonely.  He felt
v even after such a great victory v he felt alone.  So what did he do,
he ran off and he said, ?Lord, you know I-m the only one¦, and then the
Lord fed him, and showed him, ?no, you-re not the only one¦. [I Kings
19:1-20]  We-re not alone in righteousness if we live righteously.  All
the saints lived righteously.  Our Lord Jesus Christ lived righteously
so that we could live righteously.  We have the capability; we must
remain in the desert and take up the food the Lord wants to give us.  It
takes endurance to be a Christian, takes effort.  It-s not easy.  Now
the Lord said, ?My yoke is easy, my burden is light.¦ [Matt 11:30]  And
these words are true.  But we-we-re not very good oxen and when we-re in
the yoke we chafe against it.  And the yoke is hard for us.  The
Christian life is training ourselves to accept God-s will which is
perfect and very safe for us.  No matter where we are it takes time to
accept God-s will fully.  It takes times of being in the desert and
remaining there being willing to struggle against sin; being willing to
stand up for righteousness even though others are not.  Being willing to
stand up and be counted that you believe in Christ and because your
belief you live righteously.  It takes those times when it-s difficult
for our faith to be increase because then the Lord will feed us, the
Lord will give us substance; we-ll have happiness v still in the midst
of our difficulties.

Now he said they don-t need to leave, you give them to eat. [Matt 14:
16]  We must be able to get our food from the right place.  We remain in
the desert but if we don-t take to eat from the apostles then we still
go hungry.  The Fathers of the Church have always understood this
phrase, ?You give them to eat¦ to be pointing to the church.  The
apostles were deputized, conscripted by the Lord to carry out his work. 
We must eat from the Church.  We must find our strength from our Lord-s
body which is the Church; this divine and human organism consisting of
our Lord as the vine and us as the branches.  We must take our
substance, our sustenance from the vine.  Even when it appears that we
are in a desert place; even when we are tired and hot and hungry - and
lonely - we must take our sustenance from the Lord in the desert place.

Now, in the epistle, in the end, the apostle Paul says, ?-the preaching
of the cross is to them that perisheth foolishness; but unto us which
are saved, it is the power of God.¦ [I Cor. 1:18]  To the world it is
foolish to continue to pray when you don-t hear an answer.  To the world
it is foolish to live righteously.  It-s foolish.  People say, ?Well,
we-re only human, we have to do this, we have to do that.  To the world
it-s foolish that a person would actually live righteously; would deny
themselves pleasure for the sake of God.  That-s foolishness.  To the
world.  But for us the power of God.

Truly we live in difficult times.  We live in times when evil is called
good and good is called evil, or craziness, or foolishness.  We must
struggle in the desert, brothers and sisters, so that we can see the
miracle.  Imagine how the people felt.  They were cold, no, excuse me;
they were tired, they were hungry; they didn-t know where they were
going to get their food and the food just kept coming.  And I-m sure the
food tasted just like manna, with a sweet taste - not just dry crusts of
bread and fish v but I-m sure it was delicious.  Can you imagine the
spectacle?  To take bread and have it not diminish out of the basket; to
eat as much fish as you wished?  Each bite tasting more delicious than
the next?  What a wonderful thing it would be to see and to partake in
such a-such a beautiful miracle.  One would hope that the people that
saw this miracle and participated in it would have their faith
increased.  Ah, but many of them didn-t.  That-s why the Lord told His
disciples, ?You get into a ship, and go over to the other side;¦ He
dismissed the crowds and then he went away and kind of hid from them. 
And then He could come to His disciples by night over the water-walking
on the water to the ship. [Matt 14:22-25]

The reason He did this was because He knew that these people, when they
saw this miracle, they didn-t think, ?Well the Lord can help me in
anything now, and I should follow Him and listen to His teachings
carefully because He-s reliable.  No matter where we go with Him we-re
always safe; He will always help us.¦  They weren-t thinking these
things.  Most of them when they still had their bread in their whiskers
they were thinking, ?We can take Him, make Him king.  He-s our-our
supply train; He-s our meal ticket.  An army needs to eat.  If you don-t
have to worry about taking care of the food for the army, then we could
gather up an army and we could destroy Rome, and we can have pagan blood
flow in the streets, and we can again be triumphant in Israel.¦  That-s
the way they looked at the Lord-s miracle.

But the Lord didn-t come in order to destroy Rome.  He came that we
might have life; that we might have an abundant life.  And life is only
obtained through struggle in the commandments; to struggle to become
righteous.  Now the Lord helps us with all of it; but we must stick with
it.  When we have difficulties, don-t leave the desert.  When your
prayer is not answered, don-t stop praying.  When you-re suffering in
some way because you have to stand for righteousness - when people say,
?Well, why do you make the sign of the cross?  What are you doing
fasting?  Why are you doing that?  You know?  What?  You know-you-you
think you should uh-you-re against abortion?  What?  Everybody-s for
abortion.  Are you against a person having free choice?¦  You say
well-you have to be able to stand for the truth.  For what-s true.  Stay
there even if it-s difficult; and then you-ll see the miracle.  Then
you-ll see the great miracle.

Now if you don-t stay in the desert you really don-t know what you-ve
missed.  But for those who endure, the Lord gives them everything they
need.  So brothers and sisters, let the world think the cross is
foolishness; let the world think that living righteously is foolishness.
 Let them think our way of life is foolishness; but let us not think
anything that we do is foolish.  Let us struggle to follow the
commandments and the Lord will help us.  Let us continue to pray - to
continue to live as Christians v and the Lord will show us great
miracles.  May God bless you and help you in all things.  Amen.