8th Sunday of Pentecost: Feeding of the Five Thousand In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit. Amen. 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.