Sunday, Aug. 3, 2014
Eighteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Isaiah 55:1-3
Romans 8:35, 37-39
Matthew 14:13-21  

During the economic downturn, most of us thought that we had learned the meaning of poverty. Some thought they became poor when they could not attend a movie or go to the theatre. Others had to forego the morning Latte or give up cable television. Then we saw people who were losing their jobs or their homes. We knew children who only ate once a day.  That was when we discovered the real meaning of poverty…the poverty we are called to eliminate.  I remember my mother telling me what real poverty is. “Gospel Poverty,” she said, “is a simple life. It is a time when you can still make choices. You can still help others. Think of those who are really poor,” she said, “Imagine how awful it would be not to be able to give anything to others.” For mom the idea of not being able to help others was the greatest burden of being truly poor. Clearly, this was the first lesson anyone ever taught me about Gospel poverty and it is one I have not forgotten.

The call to Gospel poverty that we hear in today’s readings challenges the values we esteem…material success, productivity, self-reliance, and competition. Gospel poverty dares us to be totally open to God’s grace, to model ourselves in the image of Jesus, to place our hope in the Lord rather than in material goods. This is not the poverty of the inner city, of the poorly fed and housed, of the vulnerable and disenfranchised in our society. Gospel poverty is the result of choice—the determination to identify oneself with Christ. It is a choice to spend oneself in the service of the Gospel. Too often, this is a choice that the materially poor cannot make. They are, ironically, too materially poor to choose to be poor in the Lord.

Our Eucharistic celebration is a gathering of the poor — a banquet where bread is distributed in abundance. Here we learn that love of the poor is the way of the Lord. Here we learn that Gospel poverty for most of us is a matter of choice and a matter of priority. If we are one with Jesus, we deliberately choose dependence on God as He did. Because we owe all what we have to the Lord, our use of what we possess requires discernment. Poverty does not necessarily mean that the Christian is called to renounce material possessions. It does mean, though, that some portion of our material goods should be used in the service of humanity.

Resolving the tension between our faith in God’s providence and the window envelopes in today’s mail is not always easy. “Come, without paying and without cost,” the First Reading proclaims. Invitations like that are relatively few in this life. With this proclamation, the Eucharist is extended into the life of the poor.

At this Holy Mass, we gather to discover once more what is lasting and worthwhile. The Lord continually assures us that nothing will separate us from his love. Our sense of Gospel poverty encourages us to address the needs of the human community. The Lord provides what only he can give. He gives life to his people and fulfills the promises of David.

For this, we give thanks and praise.