One of the blessings of this strange time in history is the gift of time. We have fewer places to go and a drastic reduction in gatherings of any kind. I have heard many of you talk about more time available to garden or take up new hobbies or clean out the house. I have found space to read more and reach out to old friends through the phone or Facebook. I also think there is now more time for reflection and for getting into the Bible and for prayer. I know that simply sitting down and reading the Bible may seem odd to some. But it is an amazing source of story and inspiration. Anyone can get something out of reading Scripture. My favorite quote regarding the reading of Scripture comes from St. Gregory the Great. In the midst of his writing concerning the Book of Job, he wrote, “Scripture is like a river . . . broad and deep, shallow enough here for the lamb to go wading, but deep enough there for the elephant to swim.” Somedays I feel drawn into the rushing cataracts. Somedays I am content to let familiar words wash over my feet and ankles, like the surf that creeps up during a slow walk by the waters edge.
Maybe you have a favorite passage that you rely on when troubled. Maybe you have a yearning to learn more of God. Maybe you think you should read the Bible because it will be good for you. So many reasons to discover or rediscover the Word of God. And there are multiple ways of engaging in the text. Out of the many ways in which we can engage with God through Scripture, I have a particular favorite. After reading a passage, I ask myself what this passage teaches me about the nature of God, of humans and of the relationship between the two. So here are some thoughts along those lines for our Gospel reading this Sunday.
The passage comes to us from the Gospel of Matthew, Chapter 14, verses 13-21. It is one of the stories of Jesus feeding the 5000 with loaves and fish. What does this passage teach us about the nature of God? In the passage, we see Jesus withdrawing to pray, having compassion, healing the sick, blessing bread and feeding the hungry. Jesus is the window into the very heart of God. God cares about the whole person. God cares for those who hunger for justice and for bread. God wants us to be healed and complete in spirit and in body. God desires to bless us. God is full of compassion and understands how we struggle. The more we read the passage, the more it speaks about how God cares from humanity.
What about people? This passage shows to me how people hunger for God’s presence. The people here go to great lengths to follow Jesus to a deserted place with no thought for food or shelter. They desired his teaching and the way he healed the sick. It also shows how human responses to the need of others is not as generous as God’s response. The disciples knew the people were hungry and wanted them to go fend for themselves. Jesus’ response is to take what was scarce and turn that scarcity into an abundance. This speaks of the relationship between God and people. We may think God does not care about what we need to live. But, God does know our needs and brings us in to be the agents of God who are the bringers of food, of healing, of blessing. And, as we feed others, whether spiritually or with physical food, we too are fed.
So much of what are soul needs can be found in the Bible. Some of it is hard to understand through the eyes of 21st century experiences. Parts of Scripture need to be looked at in view of the times and cultures of the people who wrote it. But, there is still goodness to found even at the surface. I encourage all of us, with some time on our hands, to use that time in ways that enrich the mind and encourage the spirit.