Fr Vincent's reflections on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021

Jesus multiplies the loaves and fish to feed the 5000, but his purpose is much more than filling empty stomachs.  John’s Gospel wants to help us know the true miracle and the true food which Jesus offers.  Are we ready to forget our stomachs to receive the spiritual food that really matters?

Watch the video:  Fr Vincent's reflections on the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time 2021

 

Read the script: 

17th Sunday – Ordinary Time                     (July 25, 2021)

 

In the Name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.                R/.  Amen.

The Grace and Peace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you all.                      R/.  And with your spirit.

On this 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time, let us pray:

             O God, protector of those who hope in you,

             without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,

             bestow in abundance your mercy upon us

             and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,

             we may use the good things that pass

             in such a way as to hold fast even now

             to those that ever endure.

             Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

             who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

             God, for ever and ever.                           R/.  Amen.

 

Please pause this video and retrieve your Bible so you can follow along.

The Gospel today is John 6:1-15.

 

A reading from the holy Gospel according to John

 

      Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.

      A large crowd followed him,

             because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.

      Jesus went up on the mountain,

             and there he sat down with his disciples.

      The Jewish feast of Passover was near.

      When Jesus raised his eyes

             and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,

             he said to Philip,

             “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

      He said this to test him,

             because he himself knew what he was going to do.

      Philip answered him,

             “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough

             for each of them to have a little.”

      One of his disciples,

             Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,

             “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;

             but what good are these for so many?”

      Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”

      Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.

      So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.

 

      Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,

             and distributed them to those who were reclining,

             and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

      When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,

             “Gather the fragments left over,

             so that nothing will be wasted.”

      So they collected them,

             and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments

             from the five barley loaves

             that had been more than they could eat.

      When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,

             “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

      Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off

             to make him king,

             he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

 

The Gospel of the Lord.       R/.  Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.

 

Everyone knows the story of the multiplication of the loaves and fish, the feeding of the five thousand.  Yet, many Christian believers think of this event as if all Jesus was doing was feeding 5000 people with 5 loaves and 2 fish.  When all we think about is the physical miracle – feeding hungry people – we lose so much of what Jesus was doing and what he wanted to teach those people and teach us as well.  We need to look deeper and understand what is really happening.

To help us focus, I will repeat the Opening Prayer of the Mass.  (As I share so often, that prayer can help us to realize the lesson our readings are trying to teach us today.)

             O God, protector of those who hope in you,

             without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,

             bestow in abundance your mercy upon us

             and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,

             we may use the good things that pass

             in such a way as to hold fast even now

             to those that ever endure.

The prayer names God as our protector and provider, and we acknowledge that He makes the things of this world “holy” by his mercy toward us.  Remember, “holy” means “belonging to God; separated from its earthly purpose.”  We ask God to guide us so that the earthly objects we use will help us to think more about Heaven than earth.  So, you see, our prayer is asking God to help us not to think about what we need or want for our earth-bound life, but rather, we want God to help us pay attention to what will get us to Heaven.

Thus, we can see that Jesus was not focused on the empty stomachs of the people, but rather their hunger for spiritual fullness.  Jesus asks Philip an earthly question – where to buy food – because that would make sense to the disciples.  St. John writes into the Gospel the explanation that this was a test question because Jesus already had a higher purpose.  Again, the higher purpose was not filling the stomachs but showing them God’s presence to give them what they truly need – spiritual food.

How does God create this spiritual food.  Let’s keep reading . . .  Andrew, like Philip, is still too focused on the physical hunger of the people and thinks things are impossible.  So he, feeling dejected, states hopelessly that all they have is 5 loaves and 2 fish.  Jesus immediately makes a confident statement:  “have the people recline.”  Recall that in the culture of the time, people reclined to eat a full and leisurely dinner.  Had Jesus said, “tell them to stay put,” or even, “have the people sit,” that would have suggested they were getting a snack.  He is preparing to give them a meal that will fill them.

Then Jesus takes the simple, everyday earthly items of bread and fish, and, by thanking God, blesses them.  He makes them holy so that they will no longer serve a merely human purpose, but rather, be transformed into instruments of God’s grace for the people.  This is key.  Jesus is showing that God does use the things of this world for His spiritual purpose.  Jesus wants to show the people, and us, that God takes what we have around us, and gives us something greater than what we see and touch and taste.  So, as common food is transformed into spiritual nourishment, everything around us can be transformed.  Recall our prayer – “may we use the good things that pass away (anything earthly) to hold on to what will never pass away (heaven).”

Any blessing we have here on earth is not about being blessed with something earthly, but about God showing that He wants to guide us through this world to the life of Heaven.  If I pray to have a full stomach, then I am praying for the wrong thing, because my stomach will pass away!  If I pray to be filled with whatever God knows I need, then my focus will be on my spiritual life and Heaven, and I will receive what I need now for the sake of being united with God forever.

This is the beginning of the Sixth chapter of St. John’s Gospel, which is the “Bread of Life” chapter.  Next week, we will continue to read this chapter and see more plainly that Jesus wants the people to think about “Bread from Heaven,” and not about earthly food.

God bless!

 

A final word:  I will be leaving August 4th, for a two month Spanish Language Immersion Sabbatical.  So, next week’s video for the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time will be the last one until I return at the end of September.  Those who subscribe to this weekly Youtube video, after next weekend, will not receive any notification until I start up again in October.  We are planning on a different format, so “stay tuned.”

 

And now, the final blessing.

             The Lord be with you.                       R/.  And with your spirit.

 

             May the blessing of almighty God,

             the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit,

             come down on you and remain with you for ever.            R/.  Amen.