Each time the Christian community gathers around the altar to offer the sacrifice of Christ, all participants celebrate an anticipated destiny of hope. Each word of liturgical prayer is ultimately meant to give the believer the inspiration he or she needs to move forward in discipleship with renewed optimism, despite the struggles of this valley of tears.
On the 18th Sunday of this liturgical year, the Prophet Isaiah speaks of the need for each of God’s children to listen to His word, so that they may have life. Of course, it is possible to have earthly life while being entirely unaware, or even indifferent to God’s word. But 800 years before Christ, God reveals through Isaiah — whose name means “God is salvation” — a destiny of hope in the midst of decay culminating in a resurrection.
Most of the Psalms lament the misfortunes of life, but they also frequently conclude by reflecting a hope-filled destiny for those who remain faithful to God, which is the way He “gives them their food in due season.” It is easy to see why the last of the readings at Mass is the Gospel, since it reflects in Christ the fulfillment of God’s promises to feed His people.
The multiplication of the loaves and fish, which is recorded in all four Gospels, confirms that Jesus is the Messiah of God who, in a tangible way, feeds His people even today through the eucharistic sacrifice of the Mass. Each time the bread and wine are transformed into the body and the blood of Christ — much like a few loaves were once transformed into a larger portion — those gathered recall the words of the Lord, who, just as it was revealed to Isaiah, promised to raise up the bodies of all who would eat and drink His body and blood.
Often, hope in an optimistic destiny can seem lost in a world filled with constant messages of human demise. From the predicted computer meltdown of the year 2000 to the prophecies of the Mayans — who, through some elaborate calendar were thought to have predicted the end of the world in 2012 — it’s as if we have convinced ourselves that God has ordained a human predestination to annihilation.
Take for instance the seemingly countless movies that have been made about apes enslaving humanity. Each of them — from 1968 to 2014 — reflects the ultimate fears of a society that has taken its freedom too far and loses the hope of divine providence. This is not the hope of Christ expressed in the sacraments.
God’s only predetermined plan for our destiny is to conform to Christ so that we may be numbered among the saints in heaven. God knows who they are and who, through their own freedom, choose not to respond to His grace. Celebrating the Church’s public worship with a desire to actualize Christ’s self-emptying in our lives and families offers the hope of a peaceful eternity.
FATHER BRYAN BABICK is the vicar for Divine Worship and the Sacraments for the Diocese of Charleston. Email him at: firstname.lastname@example.org.