17th Ordinary – A miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us!
Bottom Line: My dear friends, miracle do happen when we allow God to be do his part and we do our! A miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us. And you too, need to be part of miracles. Who are you? Phillip? Andrew? Or the little boy?
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong – 17th Ordinary – Year B – (2009)
(St. Teresa of Avila Catholic Church – Grovetown, GA)
2 Kings 4:42-44
A miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us!
Many of us have admired the wonderful work of a little lady name “Teresa of Calcutta” and all of her companions. And I bet, many of us also wonder where and how these nuns get their strength to do what many of us do not want to do – to serve the poorest of the poor. Allow me today, to share with you my first hand experience of where and how they get that strength.
Summer of 1999, I applied to go to Calcutta, to work with these nuns for a month. I got there late that night. A sister greeted me and showed me my room, before she left the room, she reminded me: “brother, the “private prayer time” in the chapel begins at 5:00am and Mass follows at 6. I thought to myself, “These nuns are crazy.” 5:00am is the usual time that I go to bed. However, I got myself up the next morning and was at the holy hour at 5. I sat in the back of the little chapel half asleep and dreaming, and told God ‘I am sleeping now, if you need to talk to me, and then wake me up.”
After mass, we had a quick breakfast and then each headed to our own assignment. I headed to a house a few blocks away to work in the house for the dead and the dying. When I got to the front door, one of the sisters told me that she needed me to shave a head of dying man lying behind a door. As she said that, she handed me a small piece of soap, a razor, and a cup (so I could get some water.) I thought to myself, I am not a barber, I am a financial analyst.
When I entered the room, the stench was horrible. I was about to run back to my room, packed my stuff and return to the US at once. But, I felt ashamed, so I stayed. I sat next to the motionless body. I started to put some water on the man’s head and began to shave, with one hand covering my nose to prevent the stench from entering. As time went on, I started to love the man. I saw in him the image of the suffering Jesus. The one who was hung on the cross for us, the one who gave his Body and Blood to feed our spiritual hungriness.
After about 3 hours or so, I finished shaving his head and I wanted to give him a bath as well. So I ran back to my room, got the only towel I brought with me, came back, started taking off his clothes, and washed him. That was when I found out where the stench came from. It came from the wounds on his body, where the maggots had devoured his flesh. With my bare hands, I removed the maggots from the man’s body. Once he was clean I dressed him in my pajamas. I looked at him with a big smile. It was almost three in the afternoon, 100+ degrees outside, and my whole body was filled with sweat. The man, for the first and only time moved, nodding his head as he though he wanted to thank me. I let the sisters know that I had done what they asked. They came to the room, and prayed for the man. I place the man’s motionless head on my lap and prayed with the sisters. Suddenly, the man opened his eyes, and looked at me, as the angels took him up to the Heavenly kingdom.
My brothers and sisters in Christ, the story is not about me. It is to illustrate the many good works that the Missionaries of Charity are doing with the poorest of the poor day in and day out -and especially God’s goodness thru the hands of normal human being! The sisters invite them to their houses, feed them and take care of them. They gave them all that they had – Just like the little boy in today’s gospel! That is when miracles happen!
Today miracle of the loaves and fish is the 4th out of total 7 miracles that Saint John report! John’s gospel is the last one being written, so he chose what to put in his Gospel carefully! This one must be very “important!” And surely it is! It is the “opening” for the whole chapter 6 that he talks about the Eucharist!!! Which I will deepen your knowledge in the next few weeks homily as we continue to read this chapter 6 – so today I like to do an “introduction” to this great history by focusing on the 2 disciple and one BOY!
Two disciples are Philip and Andrew. These two disciples can be seen as representing two types of faith. Philip represents the naturalistic faith that does not allow for miracles while Andrew represents supernatural faith that makes room for miracles and so makes miracles possible.
Jesus and his disciples had a problem of feeding the large crowd. So Jesus turns to Philip and asks, “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” (John 6:5). Why does Jesus turn to Philip and why does he ask him about buying bread? Jesus probably knew that Philip in his material-mindedness could not imagine any other way of feeding the crowd except through the use of money. That is why John adds that “He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do” (verse 6). Philip’s answer only confirms how good he was in material computation: “Two hundred days’ wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little“(verse 7). But Jesus knew what he would do. He only addressed this question to Philip as a way of stirring up Philip’s materialistic thinking in order, later, to disabuse him of it.
Just then Andrew, one of the disciples standing by, whose faith was more expectant than Philip’s spoke up. “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?” (verse 9). Andrew was realistic enough to know that five loaves and two fish were nothing before a crowd of 5,000 men in addition to women and children, yet he had enough faith to see that it was enough for a start. Perhaps Andrew mentioned the fish and loaves to Jesus because he remembered the marriage feast at Cana where Jesus turned water into wine. He remembered that Jesus did not make wine out of nothing; he made it out of something. And it is the disciples’ duty first to provide that basic something which Jesus in his love would then transform, like water into wine, or multiply, like bread to feed the hungry crowd. Expectant faith, therefore, does not make us fold our hands doing nothing, looking up to heaven. Rather it spurs us on to make our best contribution, our five loaves and two fish, knowing that without it there would be no miracle. But even with Andrew’s faith, the miracle would not be happening, unless the BOY willing to give ALL that he has! Bingo! The rest is history! The greatest miracle of all time is completed!
My dear friends, miracle do happen when we allow God to be do his part and we do our! A miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us. And YOU too, need to be part of MIRACLES. Who are you? Phillip? Andrew? Or the little boy?
Father Martino Nguyen Ba-Thong