Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, also called the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd kept following him, because they saw the signs that he was doing for the sick. Jesus went up the mountain and sat down there with his disciples. Now the Passover, the festival of the Jews, was near. When he looked up and saw a large crowd coming toward him, Jesus said to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?" He said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, "Six months' wages would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little." One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, "There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish. But what are they among so many people?" Jesus said, "Make the people sit down." Now there was a great deal of grass in the place; so they sat down, about five thousand in all. Then Jesus 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. When they were satisfied, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, so that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up, and from the fragments of the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten, they filled twelve baskets. When the people saw the sign that he had done, they began to say, "This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world."
When Jesus realized that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain by himself.
When evening came, his disciples went down to the sea, got into a boat, and started across the sea to Capernaum. It was now dark, and Jesus had not yet come to them. The sea became rough because a strong wind was blowing. When they had rowed about three or four miles, they saw Jesus walking on the sea and coming near the boat, and they were terrified. But he said to them, "It is I; do not be afraid." Then they wanted to take him into the boat, and immediately the boat reached the land toward which they were going.
To give you a bit of foreshadowing on how this story is going to work out.. the fella telling it says that his wife is fond of reminding him that his last words will be something to the effect of, "hey y'all, hold my beer and watch this!"… The same fella reports that he wanted to get something unique for his wife on their 22nd wedding anniversary. Not sure what that would be he roamed down the streets of his town until he came to Larry’s Pistol and Pawn… unfortunately, that got his attention. As he strolled through the store his eyes landed on what he considered to be the perfect gift… a 100,000-volt, pocket/purse-sized Taser gun with a clip. His wife needed one of these. Taking it home, he waited for her to leave so that he could read the instructions and show her how it worked, but when you’re a fella who has been married for 22 years, do you really need to read the instructions. He loaded it with batteries and pushed the button.. nothing. He had wanted to see the blue arch of electricity, but nothing seemed to happen; however, when he placed it up against a metal pole and pulled the trigger, he got the satisfactory sparks.
Now, a smart person who hadn’t been married for 22 years would have been confident in the manufacturer’s ability to build a Taser gun that would perform as advertised, but he wasn’t convinced. A cursory glance over the instructions said that a one-second burst would shock and disorient your assailant; a two-second burst was supposed to cause muscle spasms and a loss of bodily control; a three-second burst would purportedly make your assailant flop on the ground like a fish out of water.
He needed to test it.. finding Gracie, the family cat nearby.. he thought about it, but wisely decided against it. Yet, his next decision was equally as stupid. He would try it out on his leg, knowing that he would be able to give himself the one second shock without doing much harm. He places the two prongs of the Taser against his thigh and pulled the trigger… The last thing he remembers is Gracie the cat looking at him as though saying, “Dude, I wouldn’t do that.”
Now.. I want to stop right there for a minute… You’ve probably picked up on the fact that this is not a Christian story. If it had been, don’t you think that the man would have prayed about it before he pulled the trigger? Don’t you think that he should have asked God to bless and protect him during this particular little experiment with his wife’s new Taser? But he didn’t… instead he pressed it up against his leg and pulled the trigger.
When he came to he reports that he is fairly certain that Jessie Ventura had run in through the front door, picked him up out of his recliner, then body slammed him on the carpet over and over … when he could see again.. he saw Gracie looking down on him, undoubtedly thinking to herself, "do it again, do it again!"
He says .. if you ever feel compelled to mug yourself with a Taser, one note of caution. There is no such thing as a one-second burst when you zap yourself. You're not going to let go of that thing until it is dislodged from your hand by a violent thrashing about on the floor and then will you only successfully break the current by breaking off one of the prongs of the Taser in your leg. (story from: http://www.ebaumsworld.com/jokes/read/1074489/#3PiyGWgraD0AF5be.99)
Now the question is.. just prior to pressing the Taser up against his leg and pulling the trigger.. had he prayed.. had he asked God to bless him and protect him.. would he have been body slammed by Jessie Ventura.. or could the entire incident have been averted? Would God somehow have stopped the 100,000 volts from surging through his body and kept him safe? The answer to that question is, “No, stupid! You would still have been hit with 100,000 volts and knocked on your butt.”
But – you retort – prayer is supposed to work, isn’t it? Aren’t we supposed to be able to pray and the Lord will answer.. for it is written.. “whatever things you ask in prayer, believing, you will receive."… and again… “how much more will your Father who is in heaven give good things to those who ask Him!”… and this one is even more convincing.. “Again, truly I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything they ask for, it will be done for them by my Father in heaven. For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them.” – perhaps that was the problem with the fella and his Taser.. perhaps if he had a couple of his buddies around to pray with him, then he wouldn’t have been shocked. Would that have worked? Nope! Not only would he have woken up to find Gracie looking down on him saying, “Do it again.. Do it again.”.. he would have also found his buddies passed out on the floor from laughing so hard.
The problem – and all of us fall into this trap – is that only AFTER we decide to do something, do we ask God to bless it. Only after we have set out a course of action with all of its meticulous details, estimated cost – monetarily or otherwise – only after we’ve worked it all out do we ask God to come in and.. do His part. And when all of our meticulous planning comes crashing down around our ears, we wondered what happened. Why wasn’t God there to do His thing?
There is a wonderful little word that those who enter into the ordination process constantly hear, but one which seems to pass otherwise unnoticed – Discernment. From a Christian perspective it is described as an interior search – a thinking through to understand how God is working. An attempt to understand what God would have you do. Simply put.. It’s not the prayer you pray as you press the Taser to your leg and pull the trigger… instead it is the prayer you pray before you go shopping for your wife’s 22nd anniversary present.
Look a little more closely at our Gospel reading for today… The crowd had gathered.. it was late. There was nothing for all of them to eat so Jesus turns to Philip and asks, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?"… Philip quickly thinks through the problem and scoffs, “You’re kidding, right Jesus? We can’t afford to feed all these people.” Andrew pipes up, “The only food here is a couple of loafs of bread and a few fish – nothing compared to the size of this crowd.”…. Yet, right after scripture records Jesus question to Philip, "Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?”.. Scripture also says, Jesus “said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.”
Jesus already knew what he was going to do… Discernment is the process of trying to understand what God is going to do BEFORE you begin to act. It is about understanding His will, so that you might act accordingly.. instead of on your own or even contrary to God. Think about it, what do you mean when you pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven?”.. Thy will be done. Thy will be done according the rules and regulations I dictate? Thy will be done on earth as I have planned… Or, Thy will be done according to Thy perfect plan?
Bono, the lead singer for the Irish band U2, was asked to address the annual White House Prayer Breakfast in February 2006… He made good points, but the one that stuck for many was this… "Stop asking God to bless what you’re doing. Get involved in what God is doing -- because it’s already blessed."… What God is already doing is the will of God – it is His plan – and our lives should be such that His will and ours are the same.
Does this mean that we will always be on the right path? Absolutely not.. there will still be those days after we have prayed, and attempted to understand the will of God, and we still end up putting the Taser to our leg and pulling the trigger, but that simply means that we are human and not God. Those are the days that we must try again – remember, “Never quit!” – but the more we practice being in God’s will, the more we will find ourselves walking in step with Him.
As St. Josemaria Escriva writes, “It takes only a second. Before starting anything, ask yourself: What does God want of me in this?” I would be willing to wager a small fortune that the answer will never be, “Put the Taser to your leg and pull the trigger.”
Let us pray.. the source of this prayer is unknown, so I encourage you to make it your own… Lord, teach me to be patient - with life, with people, and with myself. I sometimes try to hurry things along too much, and I push for answers before the time is right. Teach me to trust Your sense of timing rather than my own and to surrender my will to Your greater and wiser plan. Help me let life unfold slowly, like the small rosebud whose petals unravel bit by bit, and remind me that in hurrying the bloom along, I destroy the bud and much of the beauty therein. Instead, let me wait for all to unfold in its own time. Each moment and state of growth contains a loveliness. Teach me to slow down enough to appreciate life and all it holds. Amen.