The Catholic Liturgy for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, July 29, 2018. 2 Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145; Gospel of John 6:1-15. Theme: Become Part of the Miracle!
The multiplication of the loaves and fish is one of the most popular of Jesus’ miracles, and it is the only one recorded in all 4 gospels. John, whose Gospel we heard today, sees these miracles as signs: signs to us of who Jesus is, signs of what He does for us and signs of what He calls us to become.
Ever since the first days of Christianity, the miracle-story of the loaves has always been seen as a sign of the Sacrament of the Eucharist. It’s easy to see the connection: in this Gospel story, Jesus takes bread, gives thanks to God the Father, blesses it and distributes it as miracle-bread among the people. The left-over fragments are gathered up after everyone is fed. By eating this bread, the people came to recognize Jesus as their long-hoped-for king.
In the Mass, Jesus does the very same thing through the instrumentality of the priest: the celebrant takes bread and gives thanks to God the Father, he blesses it and it is distributed among the people as the miracle-bread of the Eucharist, the very Body and Blood of the Christ. The remaining hosts are gathered up after everyone is spiritually fed. By eating this Bread of Life, we come to recognize the Risen Lord Jesus truly living within us.
But there’s more to the Eucharist than just the miraculous transformation of bread into Jesus’ Real Presence. And there’s more to the Eucharist than just taking and eating. The Eucharist, received with a living faith and a real devotion to Christ, opens our eyes to see His presence in the poor and needy and to do what we can to relieve their suffering. Just as Jesus did what He could - with what he had - to minister to the needs of that hungry crowd on the grassy hills by the Sea of Galilee.
And this is where Jesus invites us, as He invited the Apostles and the young boy with 5 loaves and 2 fish to become part of the process, part of the miracle. But it is up to each of us if we are going to have the reaction of Philip, of the response of Andrew.
Philip told Jesus that this was basically an impossible task. No way could they feed so huge a crowd. Philip was defeated before he even began. Andrew, on the other hand, found a boy with some food – meager as it was – and brought it to Jesus. In effect he said, “Here is all I have, Lord, but we know you can use it.”
This is exactly how Jesus invites us to serve others. He asks only that we have confident-faith like St. Andrew’s, trusting that He can and will make use of us, of our talents, our desires, our willingness to be of service. He doesn’t force us, He simply provides the opportunity to serve. And like St. Andrew, Jesus wants us to bring Him whatever we have – whatever talents and desires we have, because nothing is too small or insignificant for Him to transform into something beautiful for God.
(Tell story of the pro-liffe counselor. To hear story choose the audio version of this homily.)
So, you see, when these two things come together – confident-faith and willingness to serve – everyday mini-miracles can happen through ordinary Christians like us. Smiles can take away tears on the faces of the suffering; serenity can replace complaining on the lips of the hurting; a ray of hope can brighten the gloom of the sad and lonely; a sense of dignity can overcome the self-embarrassment of a dirty street person;
· and the desire to keep on living just might return to someone who thought it best to end it all.
But these everyday miracles can only happen is we – both you and I – truly become Eucharistic people living out what both the Eucharist and the miracle of the loaves mean: that each of us become like bread broken and shared, become part of that on-going miracle, so that those we serve might come to recognize in Jesus of Nazareth the One who satisfies their deepest hunger and needs.