From Fr. Peter's Desk
18th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 2, 2020
You Feed Them
An elderly woman lived in one half of a duplex apartment. She was extremely poor in this world’s goods, but rich in the things of the spirit. She prayed a great deal. In the other half of the duplex lived the owner, a man of no faith, no prayer, no religion. He often made fun of the old lady’s trust in God.
One day this woman was praying, quite loudly, telling the Lord that she had no food in the house. The godless one heard her and decided: “I’m going to play a trick on the old gal.” He took a loaf of bread, laid it at her front door, rang the bell, and then hurried back to his apartment, to hear through the wall her cry of delight: “Thank you, Lord, I just knew You wouldn’t fail me.” With a devilish grin, the man came back to her front door and told her: “You silly woman. You think God answered your prayer. Well, I’m the one who brought that loaf of bread.” Undaunted the old lady exclaimed: “Praise the Lord! He always helps me in my needs, even if he has to use the devil to answer my prayers.”
In this weekend’s Scripture story, the disciples told Jesus to “send the crowds away… to buy food for themselves.” Jesus replied: “You give them something to eat.” Then Our Lord fed five thousand with only five loaves of bread and two fish – with twelve baskets left over.
Today that crowd has mushroomed to many millions. They are not only hungry; they are starving, over 100,000 a day, according to some estimates. Right in America and Canada, millions are underfed and undernourished.
Many Christians and some non-Christians are making heroic sacrifices to feed the famished. But the problem is too great for mere human beings. Definitely we must do all that is humanly possible. But we need help above and beyond that. We hear some shouting: “The hungry need food – not prayers.” Granted, but we will never be able to give bread to the starving until we also give them our prayers.
Alone, the disciples could not feed that hungry crowd. With Christ’s help they managed. Yes, my faith is simple enough to believe that if we ask Him God will help us feed the hungry. Like the old lady of our story, I am confident the Lord will come through, even with a miracle, perhaps with the miracle of charity.
We need to pray about the hunger problem because, even if we know all the facts, the countless number of hungry, the difficulty of getting food to them or getting them to raise their own food, the complicated and often sinful system of distribution, it is only through prayer that individuals and groups will be moved to do something substantial about giving food to those who have none.
We need to pray about this regularly and sincerely to make us aware and keep us aware that millions are starving.
This confidence in prayer is expressed in today’s response: “The eyes of all look to you, and you give them their food in due season.” In a few minutes we will pray the words that Jesus told us to pray: “Give us this day our daily bread.”
Jesus told us to do what I am asking you to do: Pray for bread for all of us, all human beings. Yes, dig down and give, but also kneel down and pray – that all our sisters and brothers in the world might have food.
God bless you and Keep Safe.
Father Peter Pham
19th Sunday in Ordinary Time
August 9, 2020
A priest was spending part of his vacation with his brother and family in Illinois. One hot, muggy night they decided to go swimming in a nearby lake. Some other groups had the same idea, among them several adults who had too much beer. The priest and his relatives were having a great time when suddenly a scream split the air: “Help! Help!”
One of the beer-drinkers had waded out where the water was up to his neck, lapping his chin and mouth. His friends on shore kept shouting: “This way, Ernie, this way.” But Ernie was confused and scared as he kept on shouting: “Help! Help!” The priest waded and swam out close enough to grab Ernie’s hand, but not close enough to be clutched by Ernie. “Come on, Ernie, this way,” the padre kept saying as he slowly pulled Ernie to shallow water.
Dear friends, we read the passage of the gospel this weekend about Peter who thought he was drowning and who called out to Jesus: “Lord, save me!” In both of these stories there is a point I would like to emphasize: both St. Peter and Ernie cried for help in just a few words. Their prayer was brief, to the point. It is interesting to note how many asked Christ for favors in a few words. It gives us a hint on how to approach Christ.
How did people pray to Jesus? Last Sunday we heard the disciples tell Jesus that the crowd had nothing to eat. Next Sunday we will hear the mother of a possessed girl cry out: “Lord, help me!” Today we hear Peter’s cry: “Lord, save me!” “Lord, have pity on my son!” was the plea of the father whose son was possessed (Mt. 17:14) Even when they had a prayerful question they expressed it briefly: “Good master, what good work shall I do to have eternal life?” asked the rich young man (Mk. 8:30) Remember the short prayer of the blind man: “Lord, that I may see.” Really, even the Our Father is made up of a number of brief prayers: “Thy will be done… give us bread… forgive our sins.”
We would do well to model some of our prayers after the brief prayers of those who talked to Jesus on this earth. Not that we will neglect the formal, official prayers of the family of God, but because often we haven’t the time or mental energy to make up a longer prayer of our own, and because shorter prayers can be offered any time, any place.
Try it at table. Instead of the usual meal prayer simply say loudly: “Thank thee Lord for this food.” As you back out of the garage: “Lord, give us a safe journey.” After a close call on the highway: “Thank You, Lord, for saving us.” Someone has suggested: “Count to ten before you speak an angry word.” Here’s a better idea in half the words: “Lord, help me to be patient.”
The Eucharistic Prayers can be divided into many short pleas to the Almighty. Pick out one or the other and emphasize that prayer in every Mass you attend. Above all, try these brief prayers outside of Mass. Talk to Jesus in your own words, in a few words.
God bless you and Stay Safe.
Father Peter Pham