All You Who Are Thirsty

(Homily for Eighteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A)

The ancient Greeks tell about a legendary King of Phrygia called Midas. Though hardly a poor man, he desired more and more wealth. One day the god Dionysius offered him a single wish. He asked that everything he touched would turn to gold. To test his new power, he snapped a branch from a tree and immediately he held a gold branch. He picked up a small stone and it turned into a gold nugget. When he pushed open the palace doors, they also became gold.

Sure that he would become the richest man in the world, King Midas ordered a luxurious banquet. But when he touched the great wine goblet, he could not lift it. It had become pure gold. When he broke a piece of bread, gold dust poured out. Everywhere he went, everything he touched, it all turned to numb, solid gold, which he could not use for anything. If he tried to sell it, what would be the outcome? What he acquired in turn would also turn to gold. All people, including he own wife and children, feared to come near him.

We have seen the legend of King Midas come to life on Wall Street. Some men and women made enormous fortunes. Yet one must wonder if they will ever savor wealth attained at such a cost – the damage done to thousands, maybe millions, of fellow citizens.

My point is not to analyze the current scandal surrounding Enron, WorldCom and Martha Stewart. I want to ask a deeper question. Why do we – like Midas – desire riches that we could never conceivably consume?

The answer is found in today’s Scripture readings. Isaiah addresses “all you who are thirsty.” (55:1) He is not referring to ordinary thirst. A glass of lemonade can satisfy that kind of desire.

We have rather a longing which no thing or person on this planet can quench. It is most strange. My puppy, though he is exceedingly rambunctious, quiets down when certain needs are met: food, company, protection, etc. But I have yet to meet a human who can stay still very long. Pascal diagnosed our affliction:

For the present is generally painful to us. We conceal it from our sight, because it troubles us; and, if it be delightful to us, we regret to see it pass away. We try to sustain it by the future and think of arranging matters which are not in our power, for a time which we have no certainty of reaching.

Let each one examine his thoughts, and he will find them all occupied with the past and the future. We scarcely ever think of the present; and if we think of it, it is only to take light from it to arrange the future. The present is never our end. The past and the present are our means; the future alone is our end. So we never live, but we hope to live; and, as we are always preparing to be happy, it is inevitable we should never be so. (Pensees 172)

Jesus knows the human soul. When he saw those vast crowd, “his heart was moved with pity for them.” He offered them a taste of substantial food. He took the loaves, blessed and broke them. He does that this morning, using the hands of the priest. He invites us to a meal, not of this earth, but of the world to come. For that reason it can fulfill our limitless longings.


Spanish Version

From Archives (for Eighteenth Ordinary Sunday, Year A):

2011: Withdrew to Deserted Place
2008: Come to the Water
2005: Why is the United States Rich?
2002: All You Who Are Thirsty

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