17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 26, 2015)
2 Kings 4:42-44
Today’s first reading, the Psalm and the Gospel from John all have the same theme: We are hungry…God feeds us. Obviously this can be referencing actual food, but it can also speak to our spiritual hunger that only God can satisfy. With that theme in mind, I want to tell you about a youth retreat I attended with some of the high school students from St. Andrew’s and St. William’s a few weeks ago at St. Catharine’s College in Springfield, KY called Ignite Your Torch. It was a four-day event and was attended by over 300 high school youth and between 20-30 priests and religious all wearing clerics or full habits. And before you picture a bunch of boring old men or mean nuns carrying rulers right out of the 1950’s, realize that most of the priests and sisters were young. Let me tell you…you haven’t lived until you’ve witnessed cassock and habit wearing priests take on high school boys in a game of dodge ball. It was epic!
Many of the priests, religious and some laity gave various Catholic related talks of which the students were allowed to pick and choose which one they wanted to hear. There were over 30 different talks to choose from throughout the conference. One of the talks I attended was by Sr. Maria Francesca, a very young Dominican sister. Her talk was called, “Souls on Fire.” She discussed how the Holy Spirit works in our lives and did it with such love and enthusiasm that I could have listened to her all day long. I also listened to Br. Matthias, a Carmelite with a big ‘ol beard, give a talk called, “Prayer that ROCKS your world.” He told us about St. Teresa of Avila’s prayer life and also explained the significance of wearing the Brown Scapular (my personal favorite devotion as you may remember from my last homily). Br. Matthias said that every time we kiss Mary’s Brown Scapular, it was like we were kissing Mary’s face. How beautiful! Fr. Benedict, another Dominican, gave a talk explaining how to withdraw from the distractions of the world and enter into the sacred shrine of the soul to be alone with God. It was high quality Catholic teaching presented in a way that engaged teenagers. I know from experience that this is not an easy task! The retreat was intensely faith filled and truly rekindled the fire of my faith. I can only imagine the impact it will have shaping the young faith of the students that attended.
There were a few very specific events that occurred during Ignite Your Torch that touched my faith on a very deep level. I wanted to share with you one that happened Friday night during Eucharistic adoration. Traditionally, Eucharistic adoration consists of having the Blessed Sacrament exposed on the altar in a monstrance while people sit or kneel in silent prayer. This is how we do it at St. Andrew’s every Wednesday in our day chapel. The adoration at Ignite was very different. Instead of leaving the Eucharist on the altar, Fr. Tony (a Fathers of Mercy priest) walked around to each of the 300+ people kneeling and, one by one, blessed them with the Eucharist. It was intense to kneel down before our Lord in the Eucharist, look up and receive His blessing. For that brief moment in time, it was a very personal, intimate moment with our Lord.
Because there were so many people, it took awhile to get to everyone so people had the opportunity to go to confession or pray the Chaplet of Divine Mercy while waiting. I didn’t go to confession in the beginning because the lines were filling up and I wanted to allow time for the kids to go. So during this time of waiting I did my normal prayers, I asked God to help me with a few issues and also to keep watch over some people I knew who were struggling in their lives. However, I had a deep sense of stirring in my soul that I couldn’t figure out. So I just kneeled and waited all the while wrestling with an uneasiness that I couldn’t pinpoint. It was then that Fr. Tony stood in front of me holding our Eucharistic Lord. I lifted my eyes upwards and gazed at the Eucharist as I received Christ’s blessing. It took all of a few seconds and then Fr. Tony moved on to the next person.
During the blessing I was fine. But as soon as it was over I couldn’t move and I couldn’t speak. It seemed like forever but probably didn’t last more then 10 seconds. On the outside, I experienced a type of paralysis but on the inside, I experienced pure joy and love. It was as if I was one with the Trinity. As Fr. Benedict explained in his talk earlier, I was able to enter the sacred shrine of my soul to be alone with God. Shortly after, I bent forward and started weeping. I wept because as soon as I experienced that intense love from God, He helped me see clear as day where I have not shown that kind of love to others. Specifically, God pointed out to me a sin that I’ve been clinging onto for a long time now. That was the stirring in my soul that I couldn’t figure out earlier. I continued to pray and cry in thanksgiving to God. I then pulled out my brown scapular and, as Br. Matthias described so beautifully, kiss the face of Mary. That 15-20 minute window was one of the most emotionally intense moments I’ve ever experienced while praying.
As the night was winding down, I knew I had to go to confession. I mean, when God clearly points out your sin, you better pay attention and act immediately! But I knew if I didn’t go to confession right then, I’d make up an excuse and not get around to it for a while. So I looked around and saw a priest in the corner of the room with a smile on his face and nobody in line. I approached him…sat down…and began, ”Forgive me father for I have sinned.” That night, I was able to go to confession and rid my soul of a sin that was eating at me for years.
Remember the theme from today’s reading? My soul hungered for healing…God fed me.
You know, it’s easy to hear today’s Gospel reading about the multiplication of loaves and say, “Yup, that’s a pretty cool miracle. Jesus sure fed a lot of people.” But what we need to do it really mediate on it’s meaning.
We are sinners. We ache for love. We have a void in our souls. If we turn that over to God in faithful prayer, God can heal us. God will love us. God will fill the void in our souls.
Not just a little bit…He will multiple it so that we are satisfied. This is not just for some people…God’s love is infinite and extends to ALL of us. But we have to do our part. We have to be willing to ask for help and forgiveness. We have to spend time in prayer to enter the sacred shrine of our souls. We have to remain faithful to God no matter what trials we are facing.
If we do this, God will answer all our needs…He will satisfy our hunger. He will feed us with the only food that satisfies…the Bread of Life…His Son…Jesus Christ.