SUNDAY, SEVENTEENTH WEEK IN ORDINARY TIME
(World Grandparents Day)
2Kgs 4:42-44; Ps 145:10-11,15-18; Eph 4:1-6; Jn 6:1-15
ARISE AND BUILD HIS KINGDOM
Do you know the root cause of all our problems? Most of our sicknesses, conflicts, complicated relationships, arise due to our ego, pride, self-centeredness, inability to let go of ourselves and our ideas. Today’s readings invite us instead to reach out to others.
In the first reading, Elisha is faced with a crowd of a hundred people needing food. We see the generosity of a man from Baalshalishah who gave Elisha 20 barley loaves. Elisha being the “man of God” told the servant to give them to the crowd of one hundred. He knew it would not be enough, but Elisha promises that there will be more than enough and there will be leftovers as God has promised. Scripture is full of stories about God feeding people – providing fruit plants for Adam and Eve to eat in the garden, giving Joseph the wisdom to store up food before the famine, sending manna in the wilderness for the people of Israel. Feeding the five thousand was another demonstration of God’s love, power, compassion, and provision. Jesus more than met the needs of these people, while offering them still another sign that he was the Messiah, the son of God.
In the second reading, Paul gives us practical suggestions for living a life according to God’s plan, with humility, gentleness and patience, bearing with one another in love. Love brings unity. And unity is what life in Christ is all about. In the gospel, Jesus took the loaves and when he had given thanks, he distributed them. Jesus could have just sent the crowd away after he had finished speaking to them, to find food for themselves; instead, he tells Philip, “You give them something to eat”, demonstrating this love for others.
In all three readings, we see that the attention is not on self, but on others. The miracle of the multiplication of loaves appears in all four gospel narrations, but only John’s gospel mentions the boy. Why does John mention him? He seems to be an insignificant lad, but great was his contribution when he generously offered his food. Five loaves and two fish could not possibly feed such a huge crowd! But they brought the boy’s meagre portion to Jesus, who blessed it and gave it back to his disciples. Jesus involved his disciples in every step of the miracle. He asked them to distribute the meal. Not sure what to expect, they handed out the bread and the fish and the impossible became possible. By telling his disciples to feed the crowd themselves, Jesus made it clear that the miracle could not happen without them.
Jesus didn’t need these few fish and bread to feed the people. He could have just called the food into existence. Instead, He accepted this gift from the boy and multiplied it until it fed thousands, and there were twelve baskets full left over. People from different places and backgrounds who would not normally sit together, now sit down together for the meal Jesus offers. Men eating with women, those ritually pure with the unclean, Jews with gentiles. And this he also did to make his disciples more confident in their ability to build his kingdom here on earth.
The liturgy of today calls us to build his kingdom on earth, to become vessels of his grace in the world, by turning our attention from self to others. We too are invited to offer our lives to God in a spirit of obedience and sacrifice, no matter how insignificant we may think our gifts or talents are. When doing so, expect God to do far beyond what we can imagine. Also, we should trust that God does not just want to meet the needs of his children, he wants to lavish his children with spiritual blessings, even to overflowing.
The Eucharist is essentially such a meal, like the one in today’s gospel. It intends to unite us not only to God but also to one another. We receive the body of Christ in the Eucharist and perceive his Body in the other as well. We cannot receive fruitfully the body of Christ, if we do not recognize the presence of Christ in our brothers and sisters. Let us be aware that we are co-workers with Christ, bringing life and light not only to our life, but to that of others
Response: You open your hand, Lord, and you satisfy us.
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