29 July 201817 Ordinary Time

Homily from Father James Gilhooley
17 Ordinary Time
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Cycle B - John 6:1-15

A hungry old woman prayed for food. Her atheist neighbor put bread and fish outside her door. She thanked God aloud. Her neighbor derisively shouted, "It was me and not your God who put food there." She replied, "Thank you, Jesus. You never fail me even if you have to use a devil to work a miracle."

The hero of today's tale is a Hall of Fame Jewish child. Only Norman Rockwell could do him justice.

The boy is the rarest of individuals - a person who gives away everything he possesses. Our attention of course is drawn to the Christ distributing all those fresh rolls and seafood. But reflect where He got the food that made the miracle a fact.

First the dramatis personae! John speaks of 5,000 men. But even then women were not about to let husbands wander by themselves over the countryside unattended. So, one can be certain there were women and children in attendance. We are talking about 15,000 people.

St John lays himself open to the charge of being a chauvinist. He obviously did not think women were important enough to mention. Yet the record down through the centuries shows women more faithful to Jesus than men.

15,000 people tell you what socko box office appeal the Master possessed in His own lifetime. Though 2,000 years later He still remains an enigma wrapped in a mystery, He has not lost His touch. He is bringing many millions together around the globe each week to worship Him. You do get the feeling that He is here to stay, don't you?

It is the Christ who mentions that this exhausted mob must be hungry. Once again, He proves He is interested not only in life after death but also life before death. He wants every mother's child of us to have three full meals in the here and now. He wants nobody to go to bed hungry.

The Master, like any Chief Executive Officer, wants His employees to be problem solvers. But only Andrew has the smarts to work the crowd looking for food. He finds that nameless child. Better said, the boy finds Andrew. He shouts to him, "Hey, mister, come here." He rips out of his chino pockets five thoroughly squashed slices of bread and two suspicious looking fish. This was to be the boy's own lunch. Let the record show the kid was giving not out of his surplus but all he had. Joseph Donders pictures the child checking the Nazarene out with open mouth and running nose.

Wily Andrew does not want to hurt the boy's feelings. He takes the unattractive morsels over to Christ. To the boy's mortification, the mob laugh up a storm at him. But not so the Christ! He accepts the boy's gifts with proper ceremony and gratitude. He invites His guests to draw up a seat on the grass. This is a crowd who not only looks for something for nothing but also want it gift-wrapped.

Only that kid remained on his feet. His eyes were large as dinner plates. He was wondering what this strange Man with the massive hands was going to do with His lunch.

The Master tells His people to share the boy's gifts among the humungous crowd. They look in disbelief at the soggy pieces of bread and convincingly dead fish. They ask, "Master, are you pulling our leg?" Their Employer retorts somewhat hotly, "Who's running this show?"

They share till every belly on the field was full with fish sandwiches. The Nazarene took the boy's squashed slices and turned them into WONDERBREAD. I have a hunch too that He winked at the child. The twelve leftover shopping bags I wager He gave to the child as a gift. One hopes he had a buddy along to help him.

I would not be at all surprised if Jesus held up the boy in His arms for all in the crowd to see. Had a TV anchor person been there, he would have recorded Him saying, "I want all of you to be as generous as this child."

The next time you are asked for something you feel you cannot give, remember this Jewish boy and think again. Even if your gift is small, Christ will make it grow. There would have been one great deed fewer in history, William Barclay says, if that boy had hoarded his gift. Once again, as the psalm puts it stylishly, a child will lead us. But will we adults have the smarts to follow him? Once I heard a man say. "When I worry about money, I know I haven't been giving enough away."

Homily from Father Joseph Pellegrino
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time:
God Provides More Than We Could Ever Imagine.

When I looked at the Gospel for this week, the thought that occurred to me was, "Oh no, the multiplication of loaves and fish again? Didn't we just have this a few months ago?"

Maybe the same thought occurred to you. The thing is there are two multiplications of loaves and fish in Matthew and Mark, and one in Luke and John. Since the Church tries to cover all four Gospels in a three year period, we end up having what appears to be the same Gospel passage about twice a year.

Why is this passage repeated so often in the Gospels? Well, because the passage refers to God's continual gift of the one food we need, the Eucharist. In fact, the same terminology, "he took, he blessed and he broke” is used in the multiplication scenes and in the accounts of the Last Supper when Jesus gave his Body and Blood.

By the time the Gospel of John was finalized, in the nineties, the primitive Church had developed a deep understanding of the Eucharist. This understanding is presented in the Sixth chapter of John. This long chapter of 71 verses is so important to us that every three years we spend five Sundays concentrating on this Gospel.

Three elements are emphasized in John's account of the multiplication to provide a deeper understanding of the Eucharist. These elements are the time of the multiplication, references to Psalm 23, and the gathering of the fragments that are left over.

The Gospel of John places the multiplication of the loaves and fish at the time of the Passover. This isn't just a passing note. The Passover was the sacred meal of the Jews celebrating their freedom from slavery in Egypt and the Lord's continual protection. Jesus was providing a meal at the Passover time. He would provide another meal during another Passover. The Last Supper was the First Supper of the new People of God, eating the Body and Blood of the Lord. So, from the very start of today's Gospel, we know that John is speaking about a lot more than loaves and fish.

If a person only knows one psalm, it would be Psalm 23. Some of the elements of this psalm are: The Lord is my shepherd. There is nothing that I want. He leads me to green pastures, to safe waters. He restores my strength. He guides me along the right path for his names sake. Though I walk in the dark valley, I fear no evil. Your rod and your staff give me courage. You set a table before me, and my enemies watch. You anoint my head with oil, my cup overflows. Only goodness and love follow me all the days of my life and I shall live in the house of the Lord forever.

In today's Gospel Jesus sees the needs of the people. He has them recline on the green grass. He restores their strength with his food. This is not just about loaves and fish. Jesus is performing a prophetic action. He provides the banquet Psalm 23 spoke of, the Banquet of the Lord. Those who eat this food will continue to eat it in the House of the Lord forever.

The third element that John emphasizes in his account of the multiplication is the recovery of the fragments that are left over. When the people of Israel gathered manna in the desert, they were told not to gather more than they needed. Moses told the people that left over manna was not to be stored. Jesus, though, tells his disciples to gather up the remains. They were entrusted with twelve baskets of bread to be preserved for the people. One of the mandates the Lord gives his disciples is to care for the food he provides so those who are not present might also eat his food. The Eucharist which is not consumed during the Christian banquet is not to be thrown out. It is the Body of the Lord. It is to be saved for those who were not able to be present at his meal so they also can partake of his food. What we have here is the biblical basis for the preservation of the Eucharist in our tabernacles. The Eucharist is stored so those who cannot attend the feast might still receive the Lord's Body.

These three elements emphasized by John in his account of the multiplication, the Passover, the fulfillment of Psalm 23, and the preservation of the fragments, reminds us that God has provided a meal that is far greater than we could ever hope for, or even ever imagine. How great is our God? God is so great that he has found a way for all of us to attend the eternal Passover. How great is our God? God is so great that he leads us into his presence and feeds us his meal. How great is our God? He is so great that he has found a way for each of us to join the disciples at the Last Supper, or what is really the First Supper, the First Supper of the Kingdom.

How great is our God? He is so great that he has created six billion people in the world, about fifty billion people since the beginning of time, and over and over again, he has found a way to treat each person as an only child.

When we receive communion, we are present at the Last Supper, the First Supper, and at the Banquet of the Lord. When we receive communion we enter into the intimate union with God that Jesus came to earth to provide for these creatures whom he loves so deeply.

How much our God cares for us! He has found a way to nourish our spiritual lives continually. His very Body and Blood keeps us strong. He gives us the strength to proclaim his Kingdom.

We have to catch ourselves at communion time during Mass and ask, "What am I doing?" Am I just following the crowd? Hopefully not. Am I receiving some sort of blessing? Hopefully, we realize that communion is much more than a blessing. What is it that I am doing when I receive communion? I am receiving the Food that God provides. This is the Food of the First Supper. This is the Food of the Banquet of the Lord. I am receiving, eating Jesus's Body and Blood, so I can be a strong member of the Kingdom of God.

Today we pray that every time we receive communion, we might come to a deeper and deeper understanding of the great gift of Love that is the Eucharist.

Homily from Father Phil Bloom
* Available in Spanish - see Spanish Homilies
17 Ordinary Time

Homily from Saint Vincent Archabbey, Latrobe, Pa
Saint Vincent Archabbey
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Modern
Gospel – John 6: 1 - 15

The Gospel of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish is a beautiful story, and what makes it even more meaningful is that it leads into, what is known as, the Bread of Life Discourse. It is after the multiplication of the loaves that Jesus teaches, "I am the Bread of Life," (John 6:35) and "the bread that I will give is my flesh for the life of the world." (John 6:51) In looking at this Gospel keep these teachings in mind. The bread that is multiplied and becomes more than enough for the crowd prefigures the sacrifice of Jesus. The bread and wine on the altar become the Body and Blood of Jesus for all ages.

This passage begins with us being told that a large crowd was following Jesus because of the signs he was performing. This was a spontaneous response of the people who experienced the presence of Jesus and saw him healing the sick. These were a people who were hungering for the Good News and when they experienced Jesus they knew he was not only the bearer of Good News but more than that, He was the Good News; both the messenger and the message. Jesus desire was to satisfy their hunger, both the spiritual and physical. Jesus cares about our total being, both our mortal lives here and our immortal lives in the afterworld.

The people did not bring their lunches and Jesus saw that they were hungry. I'm not a believer in the soggy fish sandwich theory that explains this miracle as a miracle of sharing the food that they had brought with them. This is a multiplication of food. We're told that all they had were five loaves of bread and a couple of fish, and as Simon comments, "what good are these for so many?" What seemed totally inadequate for the Apostles was more than enough for Jesus. He took the loaves and fish, gave thanks and distributed them, and there was more than enough. They ended up with twelve baskets of fragments from the five loaves.

The first lesson for us is that with God all things are possible. When we allow our minds to limit the infinite goodness and almighty works of God we do an injustice to both God and ourselves. Keep our minds open so as to allow the magnificent works of God to be seen in us and around us. When we think we don't have enough to make a difference, think again. Whether it be a particular ability or gift, time or treasure, if we take what little we have and offer it to the Lord it is amazing how much can be done. The Lord draws out of us gifts and talents we never thought we had. The Apostles and Disciples did this and went from being fishermen and tradesmen to evangelists and missionaries who traveled the known world.

The second lesson is that just as Jesus satisfied the human hunger of the crowd he is one who we can call upon to satisfy our various hungers in life. Even greater than this he satisfies our spiritual hunger, for he is the Bread of Life. In the Beatitudes Jesus taught us, "Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied." (Matthew 5:6) We can come to the Lord with all the hungers we experience and he will satisfy us, we can come to the Lord with all we have, even when it seems inadequate and insufficient for our needs, and he will take this offering, bless it, and we will find that not only does he satisfy us, he gives us much more than enough.

Father Killian Loch, O.S.B.

Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS
17 Ordinary Time
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

The Gospel assigned to this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time gives us an account of one of the greatest of all the miracles, namely the Feeding of the Multitude. This miracle is very well attested to in the Gospels and occurs no less than six times. The accounts of the Feeding of the Five Thousand occurs in all four of the Gospels with many of the details being exactly the same such as the fact that it involved five loaves and two fish.

There are two other accounts of a very similar miracle which occurs in Matthew and Mark involving four thousand people with seven loaves and a few small fish. While it is possible that there were two separate miracles involving loaves and fish most of the scholars regard them as one miracle.

The account we are presented with today comes from the Gospel of John and it has a little more detail than the other accounts. The important thing to note about all six of these accounts is the heavy Eucharistic overtones they possess. Jesus takes the bread, then he blesses it and breaks it before distributing it to the crowds.

These are the four distinct actions of the Eucharist: take, bless, break and give. We see these clearly in the parts of the mass where they correspond to the Offertory, the Eucharistic Prayer, the Fragmentation at the Agnus Dei and the distribution of Holy Communion. The Evangelists therefore want us to be very clear that the Feeding of the Five Thousand is closely connected to the Eucharist.

Indeed, in the Gospel of John, there is no actual celebration of the Eucharist at the Last Supper; there, rather, John has the Washing of the Feet, and so in his Gospel if we want to find references to the Eucharist it is to the feeding of the Five Thousand that we must look.

Of course, the other aspect of this great miracle is Jesus' compassion for the people and his desire that they should not go hungry. So eager are they for miracles and for the Word of God that they have followed Jesus into an isolated place far from any village. They do this without thought of what they are to eat so hungry are they for something higher, something more spiritual.

Jesus feeds them with earthly food but he does so in such a way that there are, as we have seen, strong overtones of the Eucharist which is to be his final and most defining action prior to his death on the Cross. This Eucharist is what feeds the Christian Community down through the generations until today, and it will continue to do so until it reaches its culmination in the great Banquet of Heaven.

In the Eucharist we receive a fragment of earthly food in the piece of bread and the sip of wine but we know that by them we are abundantly fed by the body and blood of Jesus Christ himself. It is this spiritual food that sustains the Christian family and keeps us faithful to the God of our salvation.

There are other things worth noticing about this great miracle. One is that Jesus uses the disciples. He does not distribute the loaves and fishes himself but he invites the disciples to do it for him. This shows us that in the Church Christ prefers to act through the agency of his ministers and his many disciples. He only rarely intervenes in our lives directly. More commonly he allows us to act on each other. We are sustained and healed by our brothers and sisters in the Church.

This tells us that we, each of us, need to be active Christians in the world. It tells us that we need to model ourselves on those disciples and bring food to the hungry; that is both physical food and spiritual food. It is our responsibility to serve the human family in practical ways but also through prayer and other forms of spiritual support.

Another lesson that we ought to take from this text is the extraordinary generosity of Christ. He could simply have arranged things so that each one had precisely enough to eat, but he gives out far more than that. He gave to each as much as was wanted and then when the scraps were picked up there were twelve baskets full.

In the separate accounts of the Feeding of the Four Thousand to be found in Matthew and Mark we are told that it took place in the Decapolis region which was outside the Jewish area. We are told that seven baskets were gathered up on that occasion.

It is thought by scholars that the twelve baskets represented the twelve tribes of Israel, twelve being a sacred number amongst the Jews. In the case of the miracle occurring in Gentile areas it is thought that the seven baskets represented the seven nations that were expelled from the Promised Land to make way for the Israelites. Whatever these numbers actually represent, clearly we understand them to be symbolic numbers, that is numbers with great significance for the people.

Another interesting little snippet occurs when the disciples say that there is a boy present with five loaves and two fish; but, as they say, 'what is that among so many.' The disciples look immediately to the practical, they stress the difficulties of the situation. To them, feeding all these people is something truly impossible. But, of course, this is not how Jesus sees things.

At the end of the Nineteenth Century when this Church was built our parish consisted of large numbers of very poor Irish families with very few middle-class people. And yet when we look at this fabulous building we see what they achieved. The priest who inspired those people had a vision; he could see far beyond what merely practical people thought was possible. With the help of those people he achieved the construction of a very beautiful building which will give glory to God for many centuries and inspire the prayers of multitudes of people.

Jesus is not bound by what to our minds is possible. He is the Son of God, he has come to bring us salvation, he enters our world to break through the barrier between heaven and earth. We are his disciples, it is our task to see well beyond the limitations of time and space and money. It is our task to bring life and hope to the world. Our mission is to communicate the Good News of the Gospel to our brothers and sisters who live around us and to feed them with the Word of God and so enable them to embrace the salvation Christ has won for them.

The Feeding of the Five Thousand is not a miracle that occurred two thousand years ago in the hills of Galilee and then is forgotten. No, it is a miracle that continues each day of the Christian era; it is a miracle that each one of us is involved in; it is a miracle that continues to change the world.
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