By Fr. Bill Nordenbrock, C.PP.S.
Our scripture readings today seek to focus our hearts and minds on the relationship of God with humanity and what it means for us to live faithfully in the covenant that God has given to us.
In Isaiah we hear of the first covenant established between our spiritual ancestors and God. First with Father Abraham, reaffirmed through the years with the kings like David, God declared, “I will be your God and you will be my people.” The scriptures tell the story of this ongoing relationship and there is a reoccurring theme in these stories. Time and time again, the people wander away from faithfulness and God calls them back through the prophets. That is the message from Isaiah today.
God has the prophet Isaiah declare to his people: “Come to me! I am ready to receive you. I stand ready to welcome you into the arms of my everlasting covenant.” Isaiah’s God is a God of radical hospitality. This is a God who stands with open arms, receptive and inviting.
No transaction is necessary–this is not a God who seeks to make a deal with us. Rather, this is a God who offers transforming love to us without price. This is a God who persistently invites us to come back to faithfulness. He says to his people: “Come as you are, come in all your imperfection and sinfulness and I will renew and restore my covenant with you. Hear my invitation and come to me!”
In the second reading, we hear about another chapter in the story of covenants. Paul is writing about the new covenant established in Christ. It is a new covenant, but it affirms God’s unshakable commitment to loving us.
Paul begins with the rhetorical question: “What can separate us from the love of Christ?” And then he answers his question with a bold profession of faith. “I am convinced that nothing, nothing internal like anguish or distress; nothing external like persecution or famine; nothing in the heavens and nothing of the earth can separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
To that Good News we should all say–AMEN!
This remains our covenant with God. The relationship of humanity with God is forever defined by the gracious gift of God’s love given to us. This good news is God’s promise to us. First given to God’s chosen people and forever affirmed by the shedding of Christ’s Blood for all. God has always and will always love us. Period. Full stop.
But that is not the end of the story, because the story continues to unfold in our lives; in our response to the perpetual invitation of the covenant. The story continues, a narrative unfolds, by our living as missionary disciples.
The Gospel passage we hear today is often called the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000, but I hear in it a story of Jesus instructing the disciples in how to be missionary. The disciples recognize the need to feed the hungry people, but claim that the job is too big for them. And Jesus responds, “No it isn’t; just work with me here. Just give what you have to give and I will give all that is needed.”
So you want to be a missionary disciple? Jesus give us a very simple plan. First, you have to show up. Then you just do what you are able to do. Nothing more is expected or needed. The message of Jesus is: “Just use your feet to show up and give the gift you have to give. Trust me–I am already there waiting for you to come to do what you can do and together we will show God’s love to the world.
To view the full scripture reading, click here.
Fr. William Nordenbrock, C.PP.S., is the former moderator general of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood.