17th Sunday of Ordinary Time ~ 25 July 2021~ Bible Readings for Mass: I: II Kings 4: 42-44; Responsorial: Psalm 145; II: Ephesians 4: 1-6; Gospel: John 6: 1-15
We are so often occupied with the needs and cares of life. This brings us to be focused upon our resources and abilities. It also often fuels an intense need to maintain a semblance of control and independence. This seems especially so in the western world. Our choice of what we do, where we go, with whom we share, and even what and when we eat is so often the passion of life for so many. When, in life, we are brought to a place of dependence it is usually experienced as an imposition upon ourselves and even as a trial.
We see this in the pandemic that is still with us. We see it in the great fires, the drought in the west, and the floods in other places, as humanity is brought to the place of realizing we need help and we need to help each other. And we experience particularly when we realize our need for and our need to share for God.
Scripture for this holy day speaks of the hunger and needs of humanity. And God’s Word speaks of the abundance of which God longs to provide for, and through, the faithful. The refrain from our responsorial psalm sings: “The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.” God knows and understands the needs we have. And from His holy hands, Jesus wants to meet those needs. It is through His sacred Body, His hands, the Body of Christ our Lord reaches out to feed, heal, encourage, to provide. St. Paul, in the reading from Ephesians, affirms the Spirit in which this occurs. As we allow the Holy Spirit to unify the faithful in humility, gentleness, and patience we are then freed to unite in one Spirit of peace, sharing our one calling to experience and share the abundance of God. It is then we realize in the offering of ourselves, sharing what God has given we see His hand multiply with many graces to meet the needs around and within us.
In the Gospel, as we read of the thousands of souls hungering for a meal, we are reminded of our own limitations. We are reminded that sometimes in life we aren’t in control. The disciples with Jesus were very likely stressed as they saw the immense throng of people. They had been listening to Jesus with rapt attention. But they all knew hungry people can quickly become crabby people. So when Jesus asked “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” they were stressed. Their stress was not helped as the well-understood Jesus knew there was nowhere close by to by food enough for the multitude. They, like His followers today, had been brought to a place beyond their resources and abilities. And they had been brought to a place to share what little they found.
It is vital to see from where God provided His abundance. It wasn’t from a committee to deal with hunger. It wasn’t from a learned scholar or theologian. God provided with the love, the faith, the obedience of a boy who was willing to share his lunch with God.
The abundance of God is beyond our ability to measure, quantify, organize or express. But it is for us to experience and share, in our daily bread, as we walk with Christ. The feeding of the multitude is a reminder of this abundance God longs to share. But it is also a powerful lesson of all that was and is to come. The multitude was focused, yes on listening to Jesus, to a point. But they were hungering for more. They wanted to see miracles. Little did they realize their physical hunger would be used by God to seek to minister and feed the hunger of their soul and spirit.
God meets us where we are to bring us to where we should be, with Him. Jesus did not instruct the apostles to choose or decide who was worthy to be fed. He simply told them to have the crowds to…sit and rest. The meal of God was not rationed or restricted. We see this in the Old Testament reading and we see it in the Gospel. In fact, there was so much leftover that 12 baskets of barley loaf fragments were gathered, that nothing be wasted. They all saw the abundance of God!
We must never withhold this abundance of God. And we must never waste it either. In the abundance of His, Word, the Bread of Life, in the Holy Spirit in Whom we are called to be one, in the Real Presence of His Eucharist we are called to receive and share…Christ. Yes there will be the doubtful, there will be those unworthy or failing in their understanding or acceptance of all of God’s teachings or of our specific understandings. There will be those in the crowd struggling simply to believe. There will be…each of us. But as we both receive and share God’s abundance with others we will realize and grow in the Truth who is God and the freedom of His daughters and sons. Then, as His son or daughter, we can grow on to share our meal for and with God. We will grow in the abundance of God!