Homily for the Memorial of Elizabeth Ann Seton
Sometimes, the Lord can surprise us in how He invites us to be His hands and feet for others. In our first reading from the First Letter of St. John, the Apostle echoes the greatest commandment. We are called to love one another because that love is the expression of true discipleship. In the Gospel, Jesus tests his apostles in how they love those who are following Him. But the instruction from Jesus surprises the apostles.
The apostles are sitting there wondering how on earth they are going to care for all these people. You can almost imagine that the apostles were likely hearing some grumbling from this crowd about being hungry, having no water, needing to rest, needing to be nourished. Now imagine the apostles having a moment of panic when Jesus looks to them and tells them to take care of the people. Where were they going to get enough water to quench the thirst the people must have been feeling or food to sustain them? In giving into fear, the apostles begged Jesus to send the crowds away to go out and take care of themselves. How many times have we done the same? How many times has the Lord put something on our hearts to do but we were too scared to respond to the invitation because we didn’t feel like we had enough to give, that we weren’t holy enough to serve the Lord in that way, that we didn’t have what it takes to carry out that task?
That’s exactly what happens when we try to rely on ourselves, on our own abilities – that’s what happens when we don’t fully trust that God is going to be there with us in our own inadequacies. We get so caught up in our weaknesses, in our inabilities that we forget that God is God and that He can do the impossible through us if we only give him the permission to do it. His grace is enough to cover whatever inadequacy we might feel.
Jesus could have provided for them very easily without the help of the apostles. Instead, our Lord chooses to work through human instruments, He chooses to use what little the apostles and the crowds did have to provide for those who were following Him and seeking relationship with Him. Just as He asked his disciples to feed the crowd, He asks us to feed those around us, to care for those who cross our paths, to be Jesus for others. When we see a need, it may be easier to tell someone else about it than it is to try to address it ourselves; however, Jesus asks each of us to actively care for others.
We are still pretty new into the New Year. I invite all of us to reflect on how the Lord might be calling us to come out of our comfort zones a bit to serve those around us. He might surprise us in how that service to others looks. Will we respond out of fear or will we embrace that invitation with trust and faith and respond out of love for our brothers and sisters?