Sunday, April 03, 2011

Sermon: Laetare - 2011

3 April 2011 at Salem Lutheran Church, Gretna, LA

Text: John 6:1-15 

In the name of + Jesus. Amen.

Our Lord teaches us many things today. For we see Him not only performing a grand and glorious miracle, but providing for the ordinary needs of common people. We see not only the Man Jesus, who is God in the flesh, flexing His divine muscles and showing the world who He truly is, but we also witness the Almighty God, who is a fleshly Man, gently displaying compassion and teaching the world about divine mercy.

Our blessed Lord also teaches us about “providence.”

We often think about divine providence as being an unexplained coincidence or turn of events that can only be explained as the work of God in the execution of His plan for the ages. And that is indeed what divine providence is. But providence has a deeply personal and individual side as well. For the word “providence” is based on the verb “to provide.” And we all know what it means to provide. It means to give us the things we need: our daily bread in both the earthly and spiritual sense.

And the word “provide” is based on the Latin word that means “to look ahead.” You might see it more clearly when you think about the related word “provision.” The Lord’s providence is his providing for us, provisioning us because He sees what we need even before we need it. In fact, the Lord has known what we need right at this moment before the foundation of the world.

And as a loving father provides for his family, and a loving mother provides her infant with food, so too does our loving Lord provide for all of our needs.

Jesus saw ahead of time the need of the people to be fed. He provides them with what they hunger for. Our Lord is almighty and yet compassionate, willing to display inexplicable signs and wonders, and even more willing to show unbounded love and mercy.

The Lord provides daily bread – even as He has taught us to pray for the same in the Lord’s Prayer. Without food for the body, we will die. And so, in response to the hunger of the crowd, Jesus accepted the meager offering of the young man of five loaves of bread and two fish, and He said, “‘Have the people sit down.’ Now there was much grass in the place. So the men sat down, about five thousand in number. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated. So also the fish, as much as they wanted.”

While no-one else was thinking about how to feed five thousand people who had come to hear the Lord preach, the Lord was already practicing what He preached regarding mercy. He knew what these people needed before they did, before they woke up in the morning, and even before the dawn of the first day in creation itself.

That, dear brothers and sisters, is providence, divine providence, divine love for us poor miserable sinners, whose stomachs rumble as a result of the first sin in the garden of Eden, a sin involving the eating of that which God did not provide for us.

And ultimately, the Lord’s providence goes far beyond bread for the belly. For the really providential food served on the mountainside on that day was not the bread itself. For man does not live by bread alone. Indeed, the bread that came down from Heaven, the manna, the bread that is broken and eaten among prayers and Eucharistic joy, is given to us as the Word. For we also live by every Word that comes from the mouth of God, the Word by whom all things were made, the Word made flesh who dwelt among us, the Word that declares unto us today yet again, “Your sins are forgiven, and you have everlasting life for My sake.”

The children of Israel understood the hunger of the belly, and they did indeed rejoice in the manna that fed their bodies. And yet a Greater Manna was yet to come, the Bread from heaven broken on the cross to win forgiveness for us, and broken into pieces at the altar to deliver salvation to us.

And even as the five thousand of that day bore witness to the lavishness of God’s grace and providence in the form of twelve baskets of leftovers, we two billion of the Lord’s followers in our own day continue to bear witness of the lavishness of God’s Grace and providence in the form of the faith transmitted to us by the twelve apostles and the manna of the Lord’s Supper that never runs out.

The Lord has foreseen the needs of all of His children, and before time began, He had resolved to save and redeem us, and to use bread: providential bread, life-saving bread, miraculous bread, the bread of His body and the wine of His blood, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins – all in order to provide for us out of His love and our need, out of His mercy and our hunger.

For our Lord Jesus Christ is the living fulfillment of that which we sang: “Rejoice with Jerusalem, and be glad with her… that you may feed and be satisfied.”

Our rejoicing is caused by nothing less than the Lord’s providing, His provision for us out of not only His foresight, but also (and more importantly) by virtue of His grace and mercy.

Our Lord has taught us not only with words, but also with deeds, that “He richly and daily provides me with all that I need to support this body and life.” He truly does bless those who “hunger and thirst for righteousness.” “He has filled the hungry with good things.”

Lord Jesus Christ, life-giving bread,
May I in grace possess You.
Let me with holy food be fed,
In hunger I address You.
Prepare me well for you, O Lord,
And, humbly by my prayer implored,
Give me Your grace and mercy.


In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit. Amen.

1 comment:

Steve said...

Fr. Beane,
It's good to see you posting these. By the way, I'd like to use your sermon on Polycarp in my paper on Fr. Polycarp for school.

The more I read of the early church fathers the more it seems like the problems they had then are still seen today. The Preacher is right, "There is nothing new under the sun".

God bless you Fr. Beane,

Steve Foxx SSP