“Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare. … I will renew with you the everlasting covenant, the benefits assured to David.” (is 55:1-3)
If we didn’t know this was a quote from the prophet Isaiah, taken straight out of this Sunday’s first reading, you might think this was a politician, an insurance salesman or even a banker—any one of whom we’ve come to suspect wants something from us. They come to us during election season, or open enrollment or a down economy and ask for our vote, our signature or our money. In return, they promise…
That was as rare a commodity in the days of the prophets as it is today—and just as desired. The only difference is that today, false prophets have many more outlets to make their promises instantly and get our buy-in instantly. But their promises of security often have strings attached—all the better to tie us into an arrangement as far removed from security as heaven is from hell.
The security Isaiah offered is the same kind of promise Paul made via his letter to the Romans (rom 8:35, 37-39)—which is Sunday’s second reading. In it he promises that nothing can stand between us and the security of our Father’s love.
“Neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, 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.”
Yet there are so many of us who maintain a barrier of disbelief between themselves and God. They put the idea of a spiritual Father on the same level as believing in Santa Claus. Without the kind of security that comes from the Holy Spirit—the knowledge that there is a power greater than ourselves—we are left with a pitiful void in our lives.
Sunday’s gospel reading (mt 14:13-21) indicates that Christ saw that void between the spiritually starved people of his time and his Father and took pity on them. And since Jesus and his Father are one, he would not deprive them of the opportunity to fill their spiritual void. The miracle of the loaves and the fish isn’t just that he fed thousands of people with a handful of food, but that he established the tradition of discipleship to ensure the security of a direct and eternal link to God.
“Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over—twelve wicker baskets full.”
Twelve baskets, twelve disciples. And the spiritual food distributed 20 centuries ago by those disciples continues to multiply—feeding the hungry and creating more disciples. The miracle of that is some of these disciples include politicians, insurance salesmen and bankers—many of whom might not even realize the spiritual miracles they help perpetuate.
Just the other night, the NBC Evening News concluded its telecast with the story of a Bank that directed its tellers to identify special customers they’ve come to know and to set up ATMs that would be equipped to supply them with answers to prayers they shared with them. Some customers came away with cash to help with college tuition, others received gifts to share with their families, but one customer in particular—Dorothy—seemed to represent humanity’s continuing hunger for the security of love that can only be fed by a direct connection. That connection came in the form of airline tickets to Trinidad to visit her daughter who has cancer and is recovering from surgery.
Whether the executives of that bank or its tellers know it or not, they’ve become God’s wicker baskets.