Sunday, July 19, 2015

When every word is not enough.

Sermon preached at Our Lady of Walsingham and St Francis on the seventh Sunday after Trinity.

Occasionally, you’ll hear the phrase, “Oh! She just wants to have her cake and eat it.” It’s a peculiar little phrase and yet it is something that rings true for most of us. There is something profoundly frustrating in life when we have something delicious in front of us that we really want to eat, and yet, if we do eat it, it will be gone forever. Human beings are seldom satisfied. We’re a very hungry species.

Human beings can get very confused about what they are hungry for and what makes them truly alive. We can hunger for different things and yet think we can be satisfied by one good binge. Many people who are sad, stressed or lonely think they feel better with a bit of “retail therapy” and give their credit cards a heart-attack. Yet the novelty of the new things wears off and they feel no better. So out on another shopping spree they go, and the circle goes round again.

We can look around and see that, as a nation, we’re getting fatter and fatter, while the World’s poorest are still dying from hunger. Clearly, we eat enough to keep our bodies working, and working well, yet we seem unable to stop eating. We’ve been overcome with gluttony. If we don’t need the food, then why are we still hungry? What are we actually hungry for?


At His temptation, we hear Our Lord refuse to turn the stones into bread with the words, “Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God.” However, something should strike us as being a bit wrong here. At the feeding of the four thousand, Our Lord says, “I have compassion on the multitude, because they have now been with me three days, and have nothing to eat: And if I send them away fasting to their own houses, they will faint by the way: for divers of them came from far.”

If Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God, why are the four thousand hungry? Is Jesus not God? The multitude has been listening to Him, following Him for three days out in the wilderness, surely the word of God is enough? What’s gone wrong?


It seems that just listening to Jesus teach is not enough for us to be alive. But words that come out of the mouth of God are not always words of teaching. Nor is everything that comes out of the mouth of God a commandment to us. Sometimes the word that comes out of the mouth of God is the word that makes bread multiply miraculously so that human beings can be fed. Sometimes the word that comes out of the mouth of God is a blessing, or a promise, or a reassurance. Many people who are not in the Church think that the only words that comes out of the mouth of God are that of condemnation, of vengeance, of “thou shalt not…” If they think that, then they are not listening properly, and so they will never be fed by the word of the mouth of God.

The fact of the matter is that even fervent Christians find themselves at times getting no nourishment out of reading the Bible, nor out of prayer. Many good Christians suffer a dry spell, when God seems far away. That’s okay, it’s normal and natural. It means that our hunger is not for Bible-reading or prayer, or study. It means we are hungry for something else. If our hunger is for God Himself, then we are truly blessed, but then we realise that this hunger will never be satisfied until we stand before Him face-to-face.

Man shall live by the word that proceedeth from the mouth of God, and the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us, and His flesh is meet indeed. Here we are at Mass. Welcome to the feeding of more than just four thousand!

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