This morning I had my digital device tuned to a Catholic radio station. As I dressed for work, I listened to a well-known speaker share a story about a profound conversion he had while in the seminary. He came to understand the intimately personal nature of God’s love for each of us through a unique prayer experience. He had been meditating on a verse of Sacred Scripture when the moment gave way to a profound experience of being “known and loved.” He likened the experience to being called by name. The speaker attempted to convey the feeling that accompanied the moment with examples of being publicly acknowledged as a personal friend by a celebrity or esteemed member of the community. The analogies fell short until he cited the passage in scripture by the empty tomb when Jesus speaks Mary’s name and she immediately recognizes him. It is one of my favorite passages.
I had to leave the sermon there and head out the door. Little did I know that one of the more challenging mornings in recent memory awaited me. After sitting in unprecedented traffic and a series of unpleasant moments densely packed into the first couple hours of my day, I found myself reaching for my coat and walking in the directon of a nearby Church. I entered and knelt before the Blessed Sacrament for a little while.
As I left the Church, I noticed a priest speaking to a group of people. He turned around and warmly called out my name. I had met him only once, weeks earlier. How he remembered my name is beyond me. All I know is that I was deeply moved when I heard him speak my name. I couldn’t help but discern the Lord’s presence in that simple greeting. I took in the moment’s disclosure with reverence and walked more confidently into the afternoon.
The disciples said to him, “Where could we ever get enough bread in this deserted place to satisfy such a crowd?” Mt 15:33
Too often our first reaction when suddenly confronted with our own limitations or circumstances that challenges us is doubt. What shall I do now? Do I have the wherewithal to resolve this?
If we are not careful, we lose sight of God’s presence in our lives and sell ourselves short.
Our Lord has a much higher estimation of us and our ability to transform the challenges we bump up against in our lives than we have of ourselves in those challenging moments. He knows that nothing can separate us from his love; and that his lifegiving grace is available to each of us every moment of every day. Above all, he knows what we are capable of when we abide in him.
In the Gospel the Lord responds to the quandary his disciples face with a question.
Jesus said to them, “How many loaves do you have?” Mt 15:34
He redirects their attention to the here and now. Because it is by fully inhabiting the present moment that we are able to abide in Christ most powerfully. Jesus is also calling attention to the value of what they do have, shifting the conversation away from a perceived lack of sufficiency; thereby, resetting expectations.
The Lord uses the little they had -seven loaves of bread and a fish – to feed thousands. He can do the same in our lives. The Lord can take the little we have and achieve great ends. We need only have faith, and take refuge in St. Paul’s refrain: I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.