Homily for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time Year A
Theme: *GIVE THEM FOOD TO EAT YOURSELVES*
*(NYE NU HA NRI KA HA RIE)*
By: REV FR GERALD MUOKA
Homily for Sunday August 2 2020
R1- Is. 55:1-3
Resp. Ps.- 145:8-9, 15-18
R2- Rom. 8:35, 37-39
Gosp. Mtt. 14:13-21
In 1993, the internet and cable news were awash with a pathetic Photo of a vulture waiting for a starving Sudanese girl to die so it can feast on her.
Kevin Carter, a prolific photojournalist, was the photographer responsible for the skillful capture, during the famine of 1993 in Sudan. Such feat won Kevin, the Pulitzer prize for an ‘exceptional’ capture and caption.
However, Kevin later got depressed and took his own life, four months after his world wide celebration as a skillful and experienced photojournalist.
He fell to depression. His depression began when during an interview (a phone-in programme), someone asked him, “what happened to the child?” “I did not wait to see what happened after this shot as I had a flight to catch”, he responded.
“And the person replied, “I put it to you that there were two vultures that day; one had a camera”.
This statement sank Kevin, because, he realized he could have saved her life by “giving her something to eat.” And as he constantly thought of the statement, he got depressed and ended his own life.
Beloved in Christ, at the heart of today’s liturgy is God’s care over our physical and spiritual needs, whenever we put our trust in Him. Out of His endearing love, He sent us Jesus as our Savior and spiritual food, in Word and in Eucharist, thus preparing us for the Heavenly banquet, and challenges us to share our blessings with others.
In the Gospel reading, Jesus by his words and deeds exhorts us that in whatever we do, let us consider humanity first, before we can think of ourselves; exemplified in the command given to the apostles: *”Nye nu ha nri ka ha rie”* (Give them food to eat yourselves).
Kelvin Carter, at the introit story, perhaps, was interested in selfish fame, which he got without having due considerations for humanity in the poor-dying hunger stricken Sudanese girl. He achieved the worldly fame that is realized at the altar of ‘selfishness’, other than the celestial fame, garnered at the altar of ‘altruism’.
The happiness never lasted, because it was bereft of joy which comes from reaching out to others in need.
*PANORAMIC/EXEGETICAL VIEWS OF THE FEEDING OF THE 5000*
In today’s Gospel, Matthew intentionally contrasts two “banquets”: A free banquet for all humanity and a costly banquet for the elites and initiates. Costly banquet was hosted by Herod which resulted in the death of John the Baptist, that precedes today’s Gospel narrative (Mt 14:1-12), and the free banquet of feeding a large crowd was inaugurated by Jesus near the shore of the Sea of Galilee (14:13-21). Herod’s banquet took place in a scheming, arrogant, adulterous and wicked environment, which ended with a murder. Whereas, the free banquet of Jesus was motivated by felt-compassion and altruistic empathy for the needy. Herod’s banquet was held at a royal court (a place of abundance), while Jesus’ meal with this crowd was performed in a “deserted” place or wilderness (arid region of dryness and famine).
This brief comparison reveals the truism of some of the consoling lines of the first reading:
*”though you have no money, come! Buy and eat; come, buy wine and milk without money, free! (Is.55:1).*
It was indeed a free meal for all and sundry. Because, only Jesus can do what no man can do.
Relatively, the miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is found in all four Gospels, although, the context and emphasis vary. Told no less than six times in the four Gospels, the event of the loaves and fish is the only miracle so emphasized.
Mathew’s account of the Gospel pericope, reported that the apostles themselves came with five loaves and two fishes, whereas, the Gospel of John reports that the five loaves and two fishes were supplied by a little boy.
However, some Contemporary, scientifically minded, free-thinking modern biblical scholars and exegets are of the view that the “miracle” was Jesus’ success in getting this group of people to share their personal provisions: proposing and insisting on the impossibility of such a vast majority of crowd to go to the lake without provisions, since it is their culture to bring provisions wherever they go; thereby, explaining why the little boy or the apostles had the 5 loaves and two fishes. For them, the crowd only refused to share what they had out of selfishness. They equally insisted that it was a miracle of the changing of selfish people into generous people at the touch of Christ. The miracle of the birth of love in grudging hearts of this kind of people.
Thereupon all began to open their provisions, share and before they knew it, there was enough food and more than enough for all.
However, this rather, fanciful view may be considered a non-Biblical explanation. Even though, it proposes a lesson on “NYE NU HA NRI KA HA RIE” (give the food to eat yourselves).
But a more literal understanding of the story is the biblically correct one and traditionally accepted view as we read from Matthew’s account today.
According to Matthew’s view, Jesus commanded them, never a plea or a suggestion:
“there is no need for them to go: Give them something to eat yourselves.”
In other words, the call to “give them something to eat yourselves” is a must-do that is mandatory.
Even the flimsy excuses of the apostles, “all we have here are *”ONLY”* five loaves of bread and two fishes”, could not stop Jesus’ largess and the corresponding advocacy for us to reach out to the poor and less privileged, even when we think we do not have enough.
Furthermore, the above seeming “selfish” response of the apostles, who had these provisions and perhaps, wanted to enjoy them alone as ndi ozi, represents the heart of humanity, especially, leaders and governments within the African setting, who have remained daft in power for decades and keep telling the people: “The rich oil, agricultural, coal, steel, cocoa and other natural resources God nourished and blessed our continent with, will never be enough to improve the living conditions of the masses dying of poverty and starvation everyday. Whereas, they live ostentatiously in abundance, refusing to leave the stage. Jesus is telling us today, *”NYE NU HA NRI KA HA RIE”* (give them something to eat yourselves).
*HOW CAN WE PERPETUATE THE MULTIPLICATION OF LOAVES IN OUR WORLD TODAY?*
We all know Nigeria, together with most African countries, has been blessed with rich human and natural resources that will serve 3 square meal each day for every one.
That not withstanding, statisticians report that, for at least two thirds of the world’s population, hunger is a daily experience — not the slight twinge of discomfort or abdominal rumbling which may occur if a meal is skipped or delayed, but the deep, painful, sunken-eyed, body-emaciating type of hunger which is virtual starvation. Every hour of every day, at least 1500 people die of hunger or hunger-related causes globally.
Nigeria was enlisted among the hungriest countries in the world that experience food crises. At least, 91 million Nigerians representing 60 percent of the country’s population are food insecure.
Imagine a country at a normal stead, before the COVID-19 PANDEMIC fluctuations, sold oil at the price of $65 per barrel, with crude oil export records of 2.2 million barrels per day.
*WHAT DO WE KEEP HEARING?*
~ We cannot pay #30, 000 for minimum wage.
~ We cannot recruit more teachers in our schools.
~ We cannot meet the demands of University Commission (NUC).
~ The health workers are demanding too much.
~ We do not enough resources to generate the needed megawatts for constant electricity supply.
Infact, better leave them unemployed since we cannot pay them. We do not have enough allocation. Thereby, forcing the starving masses at the “survival of the fittest and elimination of the poor” racketeering system.
The simplest code for today says, *”GIVE THEM FOOD TO EAT YOURSELVES”* (Nye ha nri ka ha rie).
We can maintain and facilitate docility to Jesus’ instructions today through the following means:
*(1) ESCHEWING SELFISHNESS*
Selfishness is the greatest obstruction to the “give them food to eat yourselves” mandate. Selfishness only thinks of the self, without minding how the other fares.
The second reading, which contextually, was Paul’s response of encouragement to the Gentiles who were almost segregated upon to get circumcised before becoming Christians and chiding of the Core Christian Jews for their selfishness in forcing others pass through the Jewish circumcision rituals before becoming Christians. Paul spoke to them to always eschew every form of selfishness that would impede others from identifying with Christ the saviour.
The whole looting and stealing drama at NDDC, NNPC, EFCC, Church and Government today, are all products of selfishness. People thinking of their own satisfaction, gain and aggradisement, rather than that of humanity.
The following analysis explains the danger of selfishness which says, “what will I benefit at any given time:
National Education Board presumably fixes #1000 for National Examination Levy. State representatives went home to tell the principals that the price is #2000. The principal probably, tells the form teacher that it’s #4000. The form teacher, adds 1k and tells the students that Exam Levy is #5000. The students tell their mum it’s #7000, the mother goes to the father demanding #10,000. This is the hierarchical parody of how funds are looted in Nigeria, because of selfishness. Everyone wants a selfish gain by all mean.
*(2) DEVELOPING LOVE FOR HUMANITY OTHER THAN PUBLICITY*
“We need leaders not in love
with publicity but in love with
(Martin Luther Jr.)
The major problem we have today is that we have leaders (Christians), both in politics, churches, communities, etc. who are more interested in publicity than humanity.
Publicity Christians are like Kelvin Carter in the introit story, who are interested in fame and power; we see their charity foundation bill boards only during election campaigns; they alight ostentatiously at different streets to buy corns to eat. While, Christians who love humanity see God even in the least of the society; they live for everyone and value everyone.
Those who have deep love for humanity thrive to improve the living conditions of others. Whereas, those in love with publicity are the cause of disaster and high mortality rate in Africa-the original blood sucking demons of our time.
For example, Fr Oluoma once said, “the greatest form of witches and wizards are not those bats and owl that ply their trade at night, but most politicial, church and community leaders who have failed the masses.
For instance, “If someone is paid to construct a good road and he either loots or constructs a sub standard road, any accident on that road which costs human lives or property damage, the contractor or awardee is a blood sucking witch.
If a governor or employer fails to pay workers and pensioners and they die of starvation or inability to access good health facilities, he invariably becomes a blood sucking witch.
If a medical director fails to provide adequate drugs and oxygen for patients in government specialist hospitals, any recorded case turns him into a blood sucking demon.
When a councillors, LGA chairmen, State/National Assembly members diverts constituency projects funds for his personal aggradisement, he automatically becomes a blood sucking witches and wizards, because of the selfish refusal to improve the living conditions of the people. And likewise all who obstruct others favours and blessings.
*(3) GIVE UNTIL IT HURTS*
“Give until it hurts” was one of the most famous quotes of Saint Mother Teresa, first used in her address to the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, D.C. on 3 February 1994.
I see it as the measuring rod for today’s mandate: “give them food to eat yourselves, even when it hurts.” The apostles, probably, wanted to avoid such generosity that hurts. If we have not done charitable work that hurt, we have not done much.
So, Jesus invites us to look around us and share the water in that underground tank that doesn’t run dry from year to year; He wants us to share from the abundance of those bags of rice, beans and tubers of yam that spoil in the store; Jesus wants us to know that there are people whose survival and livelihoods rely on our generosity in every neighbourhood.
Finally, Mother Teresa of Calcutta related a touching story of a poor Hindu family in Calcutta who had been starving for many days. Mother Teresa visited them and gave a parcel of rice to the mother of the family. She was surprised to see that the woman divided the rice into two equal portions and gave one to her Moslem neighbor. When Mother Teresa asked her why she had done such a sacrificial deed, the woman replied: “My family can manage with half of what you brought. My neighbor’s family is in greater need because they have several children who are starving.”
Oh, what a practical way of digesting the dictates of today’s liturgy which summarily says:
We have not truly lived, until our lives have become the stars and sunshine of someone else.
If you are privileged today, there are a lot of unprivileged people around you therefore do something to help them.
If your wealth can not transform somebody’s life there is no basis for being wealthy because you are just a STEWARD of GODS resources.
FATHER IN HEAVEN, MAY THE LONGING FOR EARTHLY RICHES AND SELFISHNESS NEVER SEPERATE US FROM IDENTIFYING AND RESONATING IN YOUR EVERLASTING LOVE. AMEN.
*GOD BLESS YOU.*
FR GERALD MUOKA