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July 20, 2015 | Volume 90 Number 19

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Believe as you Pray »

In Light of Faith »

photo: Deacon Christopher Colville

believe as you pray

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

July 26, 2015

2 Kings 4: 42-44
Ephesians 4: 1-6
John 6: 1-15

In the Gospel reading we hear the familiar account of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fish. One of the reasons it is so familiar is because all four gospel authors include it. This weekend we have John’s account and with it we have the reading from Second Kings in which the Prophet Elisha feeds one hundred men with twenty barley loaves. In the Gospel, after everyone had eaten their fill we hear Jesus tell the disciples, “Gather the fragments left over so nothing will go to waste”. We are not told where these fragments went. Presumably they feed the hungry, or why would Jesus bother having the disciples gather the leftovers.

Leftovers remind me of my mother. In our large family, nothing went to waste. We always had plenty to eat and once in a while, especially on holidays, there were leftovers which were turned into another meal. Turkey from Thanksgiving became turkey sandwiches and then turkey pot pie or turkey soup. This happened with other things as well. Clothes and bicycles were passed down from one sibling to another and possibly to another. Some things may get passed on from one generation to the next.

Gathering was nothing new for Jesus. He defined his ministry by gathering people, whether they were the leftovers of the world or people Jesus changed for the sake of the Kingdom. There were the fishermen first and then the tax collector and the other Apostles. He reshaped other people for the Kingdom as well. There was the woman caught in adultery, the Samaritan woman at the well, the man born blind, Zacchaeus and others. He took the discards of society and presented them in a different light to see them as useful, to see purpose in them. Jesus did this by calling people to change through his ministry and has continued to do this throughout history.

Saul, a man of authority and position in the Jewish community, became Paul, the Apostle to the Gentiles. Augustine was a man of the world who became one of the great Fathers of the Church. Francis, soldier and wealthy heir, renounced everything to become the great saint of peace. Even in the modern world we see evidence of God changing people, remaking them for the Kingdom. Thomas Merton and Dorothy Day are two great examples. These people, like the people of the Gospel, listened to the call to change their lives. God calls us today as he called them in the past. He summons us with what he has given us and where we are in the world to be workers for the Kingdom.

Paul’s challenge is to live a life worthy of this call, to be one in the Kingdom where we are united in peace through one faith and baptism and through the one God and Father of all. In that challenge he wants us to see how God has changed us and given us gifts to help reshape the world into the Kingdom of God. However, we all have gifts from God which we don’t use. Which gifts are wasted, leftover and not used? If we gathered all the leftovers, the gifts God has given us that we do not use, what could God accomplish?

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in light of faith

Trusting Your Gut

Last Sunday while in Washington, D.C., we attended Mass at the Cathedral of St. Matthew. During the homily the presiding priest talked about the importance of following our gut instinct, not just our head and/or heart.

The theory was reminiscent of guidelines for discernment that I had come across a number of years ago, so it wasn’t exactly a new concept. However, the manner in which the priest applied it to the Gospel piqued my interest so that a few days later I found myself doing a Google search on the term, “gut instinct.” And, sure enough, there it was!

No sooner had I clicked on the search engine, than a plethora of slogans and blogs popped up, all touting the importance of following your gut instinct. One that kept coming up was “Never apologize for following your instinct — your brain can play tricks, your heart can blind you, but your gut is never wrong.” Hmmm!

Never one to rely on slogans, I began reading some of the accompanying articles that supported the theory. Time and again, I read how the gut (intuition or hunch if you prefer) provides us with insights that originate on a deeper level, namely the unconscious. Since we tend to view the intellect as a more reliable guide, the leap from head to gut seemed a bit of a stretch, or is it?

Think of butterflies in the stomach when faced with the unknown. And when we consider all the gastro-intestinal disorders that are caused by stress and anxiety, we can hardly isolate thoughts and emotions as if they had no impact on the gut.

According to Michael Gershon, author of "The Second Brain"and a professor at Columbia University, the gut has millions of nerve cells and therefore, it could be said that the gut has a mind of its own.

Still, gut feelings do not originate there, but are a response to signals from the brain, signals that navigate a network of memories, feelings and assumptions. These signals are fired so rapidly that they seem to originate in the gut.

Hence the saying: trust your gut instinct. So what does this have to do with the spiritual life? Actually quite a bit.

Consider the fact that anthropologists have long found evidence that even the most primitive human beings believed in some type of deity and afterlife. Evidence of sacrificial offerings and burial rites among archaic tribes suggest that this type of knowing was inherent among humans long before God entered into a relationship with the Hebrew people.

The tendency towards belief in a deity is embedded so deeply within humankind that some would say it resides in the very bowels of our being. Hence the term gut instinct.

Nevertheless, a gut reaction is not to be confused with impulsiveness, which is merely a knee-jerk reaction that ignores the intellect and bypasses reason all together. God gave us a brain for a reason.

The brain transmits knowledge to receptors that are located throughout the body. And since we are mind, body and spirit, the spiritual cannot be isolated from the physical. We are flesh and blood, and have five senses that serve as gateways to knowing. However, when we talk about the supernatural, words often fail us, and so we resort to metaphors that reveal more about the human person than we may realize.

We talk about our thirst for God. “Like a deer that is thirsting for running waters, so my soul is thirsting for you my God.” (Ps. 42).

We describe our deepest yearning as a hunger for God. Therefore, it is no coincidence that God comes to us in the form of bread and wine.

Jesus never bypassed the senses. He healed people of physical infirmities. He took pity on the crowds who followed him and had nothing to eat.

He instructed his disciples to go off to a quiet place when he saw they were exhausted. Jesus became one of us in all things but sin, and experienced first-hand the limitations of the human body. But he also understood its potential, and so should we. After all, it was our first teacher. It told us when we were hungry, and we cried until we were fed.

For adults who are faced with choices, following our gut requires viewing a situation or theory from a thoughtful and intellectual perspective and then going with what we know in the depths of our being is right. Attachments to certain people, possessions and ideologies can deceive the heart.

There may be times when we may not even be able to articulate what our gut is telling us, but that unsettling feeling should alert us to the fact that something is not quite right. When that happens, we need to pay attention.

One of the principles for discernment involves an honest assessment of our interior disposition. Following the promptings of the Holy Spirit may involve sacrifice, even a type of death to self, but at the same time, our interior disposition will experience a sense of peace and our outward manner will be one of gentleness, kindness and humility. The presence of inner turmoil, fear or pride should be regarded as red flags that run contrary to the presence of God.

Simply put: after we have prayed, studied and sought advice from wisdom figures, it may come down to going with our gut instinct because God works through the human process. And sometimes that means following something as seemingly mundane as our gut.

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