My Dear Sisters and Brothers!
Probably the story makes us uncomfortable as it is so removed from our ordinary experience. I understand that because of her illness she didn’t care how she was presenting herself. We may not meet people who eat toilet paper but they will use other “more civilized” ways to deal with the emptiness in them. It can be done in other ways: When people go shopping not to buy things they need but to buy things in order to make them feel better. When people make friends not to be for their friends but to have feeling that they are loved and appreciated. When job becomes the source of feeling valued and people put so much of their time and effort in order to preserve, not so much their income, but the feeling of being important. It can be a drug addiction which for some time deaden the pain of emptiness or pornography when sexual urges give false fulfilment. The list could go on but in the end of the day it comes to that: it is all like toilet paper in the story of Arnhild Lauveng. Each one of us experiences such emptiness at some stage. Let’s look at the Gospel for this Mass. Where do we find Jesus, the Apostles and the crowd? The lonely place. What does make a place lonely? Don’t think that it was the desert. It wasn’t. Can you remember what means of transportation Jesus used to get to that lonely place? By boat! It means that we are at the Sea of Galilea. From what I saw in the Holy Land it is the prettiest part of the country there. So what made it lonely? That part of Galilee was inhabited. No people around. I guess that when all those people turned up: five thousand men, plus women, children, the Apostles and Jesus - it wasn’t a lonely place any more but originally it was. However, as we know, even in the big crowd you can feel lonely. Why? Because in each one of us there is space which can be only occupied by God. If God is not there, in our soul, we are desperately lonely, empty. Arnhild Lauveng was eating toilet paper to fill that emptiness. Other people will look for other ways to fill up that space. However they will never fill up that emptiness as God can only fill it up with is presence.
That lonely place which we find in the Gospel today is also associated with lack of faith. What can you say about the disciple in this passage of Matthew Gospel? They were lacking faith in Jesus. When I am preaching now about faith I don’t mean knowing that God does exist, that he is heaven. Satan knows all that. He knows that God does exist and that God is in heaven but still having that knowledge he hates God today as much as he hated him yesterday. Faith I am preaching now is about trusting God, about conforming your life to God’s will and his Holy Word.
As I mentioned before, even in the crowd one can feel lonely if one doesn’t interact on a deep level with others. God is everywhere indeed but if one doesn’t interact with God on a deep level it is like being in a big crowd and still being lonely, empty. Faith is not about convincing us and other about existence of God but it is about the way we interact with our God. Those interactions fill us up with God’s presence.
Sometimes I am asked while Catholics are expected to go to church every Sunday. Well, we go to church every Sunday so that we could interact with God, so that we could be reassured that He still loves us. Just think how many problems, issues, situations, and challenges we face every week that could make us doubt God, but by receiving Holy Communion we receive a signal from God that He still loves us. Jesus didn’t want us to end up eating toilet paper but he has given us his Most Precious Body and Blood. That what can feel up the emptiness we can find inside us.