(Sunday Homily) Jesus Meets with Terrorists in the Desert

Loaves & Fishes

Readings for the Solemnity of the Most Holy Body and Blood of Christ: GN14: 18-20; PS 110: 1-4; I COR 11: 23-26; LK 9: 11B-17.

In this morning’s Gospel episode, a group of 5000 men— presumably with something to hide – meet in in a secret, out-of-the-way place.

The secrecy is entirely appropriate at this time of revolution against the Romans, their country’s hated occupying force. That context requires it. If such a gathering were discovered, the Roman Pigs (MK 5: 1-13) would surely attack and wipe out all present without a trace of pity. It’s been their consistent track record.

The desert context also evokes in everyone’s mind the halcyon years their ancestors spent in the desert following their liberation from Egypt. It reminds them that deliverance from foreign domination is the very core of their faith heritage. As well, the wasteland context recalls the recently martyred prophet, John the Baptizer who lived among the rocks, sand, wild creatures, heat and cold.  In absentia, his own wildness is the unspoken inspiration for this assembly.

Naturally, many of the men present are armed. They are part of the resistance, the Insurrection. Virtually everyone in the country supports them. They are celebrated as heroes.

This day, one of those sympathizers known for his fiery rhetoric spends hours speaking. It’s the worker-rabbi, Yeshua, the carpenter from Nazareth. He is the heir apparent of the assassinated Baptizer. Like John, Yeshua is a social revolutionary hated by the Scribal Establishment. The same is true for the priestly caste and Roman occupiers. They all think “the Master” is a terrorist – an armed Zealot like many in his audience. In fact it is certain that several in his inner circle bear arms (LK 22:38, JN 18:10). They are suspected of being sicarii – patriotic assassins of Roman soldiers.

In the past, Yeshua has routinely excoriated the rich who collaborate with the oppressors of their own people. He has encouraged the destitute. Today is no different. Over and over he has told his oppressed followers “The Kingdom of God is yours.”

All are familiar with that metaphor – “the Kingdom of God.”  It describes what Israel would look like if it were ruled by their tribal God, Yahweh, rather than by filthy goyim. Everything will be reversed in the Kingdom, Jesus has said. The rich will weep; the poor will laugh. The first will be last; the last, first.

“The Kingdom of God” is not about some “heaven up there,” Yeshua insists. “Don’t let anyone tell you different. It is about this world of body and blood, bread and wine.

“Eventually, it will be about my body and blood,” he has also predicted on several occasions. With such words he has signaled his fearless embrace of his “prophetic script.” Like prophets before and after him, he knows his inevitable fate. The Powers and Principalities simply cannot abide prophets or liberators. They call all such resisters “terrorists“ and butcher them without a second thought.

“But my death,” Yeshua has assured, “will be like a seed giving rise to others like me. There have been many before. Many will emerge after my death. Everyone has a duty to resist oppression. Take long quaffs of my blood,” he has said. “Death suffered struggling for God’s justice is nothing to fear.”

Like most revolutionary groups, the assembly this day is highly organized. After Yeshua finishes speaking, it disarticulates into 100 groups of 50 for discussion. A subsequent plenary centralizes the far-reaching conclusions of a group of fishermen especially close to the prophet Yeshua. The fishermen propose a New World Order where wheat farmers share bread and fishermen distribute the fruits of their labor for free. Such sharing, they’ve concluded is the answer to hunger and poverty. It would yield abundance for all with plenty left over.

And that’s what happens on this day. When everyone shares the lunches they’ve brought with them, 12 baskets of bread and fish are left over.

“It’s a miracle,” everyone agrees.

And it’s true: selfless sharing is revolutionary. It’s the nature of God’s Kingdom.