The Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – 2 August 2020
Lectionary Readings: Isa 55:1-3; Ps 145:8-9, 15-18; Rom 8:35, 37-39; Matt 14:13-21
I have a dear friend who begins her morning by feeding her birds – the wild doves and sparrows who live in her garden. Daily she places seed on her window sill and the birds come and eat it. In a sense she is sowing seed but instead of growing wheat she is growing birds who daily wait for her providence, a gift of her spirit; reminiscent of Buber who writes “Spirit become word, spirit become form … neither germinates and grows in the human world without having been sown; both issue from encounters with the other … I am reminded of the strange confession of Nietzsche who circumscribed the process of inspiration by saying that one accepts without asking who gives. That may be so – one does not ask, but one gives thanks”. (Buber, 176).
I do not know if my friend realizes that she is acting imitatio dei when she feeds the birds, but I do think that Jesus did when he fed the five thousand with five loves and two fishes. The text says “he saw a great crowd; and he had compassion for them”. The Hebrew word for compassion is rachameem and comes from the word rechem meaning womb. God surrounds his world like a womb giving warmth, protection and nourishment. Again Buber: “The prenatal life of the child is a pure natural association, a flowing toward each other, a bodily reciprocity; and the life horizon of the developing being appears uniquely inscribed, and yet also not inscribed, in that of the being that carries it; for the womb in which it dwells is not solely that of the human mother”. (Buber, 76)
Jesus, in imitation of the Divine Parent, is warm, protecting and nourishing. As he once told Peter “if you love me feed my sheep” Jesus is doing the work of God, curing the sick and feeding the hungry. Buber spoke of Nietzsche’s “strange confession.” Often we too, like the birds, in our thoughtlessness accept without asking who gives but like the birds, on some level, we give thanks. I like to imagine that when Jesus looked up to heaven before breaking the bread he was thinking of a line from the Birkat Mazon, the prayer orthodox Jews say after every meal “Give thanks to God, for God is good; God’s mercy endures forever. God opens God’s hand and satisfies every living thing with favor. Blessed is the one who trusts in God, for God will be their protection”.
For Reflection And Discussion: 1. Jesus says “…whosoever shall do the will of my Father which is in heaven, the same is my brother, and sister, and mother” (Matt 12:50) yet he feels compassion and feeds an anonymous crowd. How does this fit in with the idea that God blesses those who do the divine will and does not bless those who do not comply? 2. Jesus compares his listeners with birds but birds do not sin. If God intended us to be sinless why did he place the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil in the middle of the garden and even draw attention to it? 3. Isaiah (55:3) speaks of an everlasting covenant; in Romans (8) Paul says that we are inseparable from the love of God. How does this fit in with Karl Rahner’s notion of the “anonymous Christian‟?
Bibliography: Buber, M. I and Thou (New York: 1999); Klein, J. Moses: Birkat Hamazon (University of Southern California; https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/birkat_hamazon.pdf)