Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year A
Bishop Untener's Homily
The convergence of these readings set me thinking about the play "Oliver." I'm no expert on plays, but I've listened to the music of this one. "Oliver" is the story of an orphan in old England (back when orphans were not always well treated). This young boy was one of those "lost youngsters." He had been thrown out of an orphanage because, among other things, he asked for more food. Then he got a job in a workhouse, but he was treated cruelly, and fired. Now, with no money and no place to live, he's out on the street, and he sits on a doorstep and sings "Where Is Love?" Some of the lyrics of the song go like this:
"Where is love? Does it fall from skies above?
Is it underneath the willow tree that I've been dreaming of?
Will I ever know the sweet hello that's meant for only me?
Every night I kneel and pray: Let tomorrow be the day
when I see the face of someone who… I can mean… something to."
Oliver is talking about more than romantic love. He just plain wants to be loved, to mean something to someone.
That's the hunger in all of us, whether we’re old or young, married, single, widowed, divorced, a priest, a religious. Down inside of us there's something unfinished, incomplete. There's a gap in all of us, a hunger to be loved. It's the deepest hunger of all, and every other hunger is an expression of that one.
A lot of the world is singing, "Where is love?"
Jesus says, "Where is love? Right here. As the Father loves me, so do I love you. Come to me all you who are weary and find life burdensome. Come to me."
All three readings today come together in a wonderful response to that hunger. God speaks through the prophet Isaiah inviting everyone to come to God's sumptuous banquet, at no cost:
All you who are thirsty, come to the water!
You who have no money, come, receive grain and eat;
Come, without paying and without cost, drink wine and milk!
Paul reminds us that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ. He's not talking about our love for Christ. He's talking about Christ's love for us. Paul says:
I am convinced that neither death, nor life...nor present things, nor future things, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Then in the Gospel Jesus, who's trying to get away with his disciples for a little quiet time, gets out of the boat, sees a large crowd, and his heart goes out to them. He cures the sick. And he feeds them providing more loaves and fishes than they could eat.
This is one of those beautiful truths that we bask in. We enjoy. Imagine... God loving us so.
There's another song in Oliver. He ends up on the streets of London, still with no place to stay, and no food to eat. A group of young people takes him in and share their food and lodging with him. They're down and out, just like he is, and unfortunately, they're petty thieves - that's how they survive. They welcome him with a song - most everyone has heard this one. Part of which goes like this:
"Consider yourself at home. Consider yourself one of the family.
We've taken to you so strong, it's clear we're going to get along.
Consider yourself well in. Consider yourself part of the furniture.
There isn't a lot to spare; who cares? Whatever we've got we share."
This one, metaphorically, applies to us - the Church. It fits, because we're sinners, far from perfect. It also fits because that is what we are meant to be for all people - the Body of Christ, extending his love and mercy to everyone. The Vatican II Constitution on the Church in the Modern World begins:
"The joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of the people of this age, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted, these too are the joys and hopes, the griefs and anxieties of the followers of Christ."
We, the Church, must say to people, "You ask, where is love? Right here. Right here." In the Gospel, the disciples want to send the crowd away so they can take care of themselves. Jesus says, "No. Let them stay. We'll take care of them."
We, the Church, are at our best when we do that. And we can do that only if we first realize that the Lord speaks those same words to us: "You ask, where is love? Right here."
So, let's enjoy the truth of God's love for us. And let's be sure we extend that love all round. There's plenty to share.
Originally given on August 4, 2002