Sunday, July 25, 2021

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Christ Gives Us To Eat

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Christ feeds us all.  In today's readings, we are reminded of how God cares for His people, not only spiritually but physically as well.

The first reading tells us of Elisha who was the successor of Elijah. Elijah was seen as the greatest of prophets.  I mention Elijah because of what the reading tells us and how it relates to the Gospel. Elisha, we are told had twenty barley loaves.  With those twenty loaves, a hundred people were able to eat and there were loaves left over. Sound familiar (Jesus' miracle)? Here we see a miracle regarding the multiplication of loaves. Elisha's servant at first objects to giving the barley loaves because his reason told him that twenty loaves cannot feed a hundred. However, God is above the laws of physics and our cognitive limits in regards to processing what is physically possible and what is not (Ephesians 3:20).

Elisha, as stated above is the successor, Elijah.  I stress this because Elijah as well was involved in a miracle regarding loaves as well.  In 1 Kings 17:7-16, we read of the prophet Elijah who was told by God that a widow would be waiting for him. Elijah meets with her and asks for a loaf of bread. However, the widow does not have enough flour and oil. Her family is literally starving. Nevertheless, Elijah still instructs her to make him a loaf of bread and then one for herself and her son. She does this and they then have enough food for each day. A miracle occurred. God multiplied the food. So first Elijah is involved in this miracle for himself, the widow, and her son.  Then Elisha is involved in one, but this one entails twenty barley loaves that would feed one hundred.  However, as we shall read in the Gospel today, Christ outdoes them both.  He multiplies five barley loaves and feeds 5,000 leaving twelve baskets leftover of food.  This indicates that Jesus is greater than Elisha and even the greatest prophet of all Elijah.  As God promised Moses, He rose a prophet from among the Israelites (Deuteronomy 18:18). God, Himself comes to feed us as we read in the Psalm (Psalm 81:17).

Today's responsorial Psalm tells us that, "The hand of the Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs." God cares for us (Matthew 6:26). We in turn must give Him thanks (1 Thessalonians 5:18).  He gives us our food in due season and satisfies the desires of everything that lives (Ecclesiastes 3:1-8). All things come from God and we must be grateful (James 1:17, Psalm 127). We must have faith in Him and realize our place in nature.  We are not gods (Psalm 8:5). Nature reminds us of this constantly. We are seeing droughts in many areas and floods in others. These are natural processes that occur but also serve as a reminder that we are mortal and need to trust in God. God will bless a nation that seeks Him (2 Chronicles 7:14).  The nations that run from Him face destruction.  We seek God by having faith and putting that faith into action via love as we read in today's second reading.

In the second reading, we are reminded that we must live in a manner that is worthy (Philippians 1:27).  We do this by being humble, gentle, and patient.  We must do this with one another through love (John 13:34-35).  I know there are people in our lives or people we may encounter who we want to push down a flight of stairs.  They may annoy us, may compete with us or may just rub us the wrong way.  This happens all the time. Nevertheless, we must love these people and bear them for the sake of Christ and our own sanity. This is especially true of our own in the Church.  Sometimes or many times, people in the Church can be worse than people outside of the Church. We perceive it this way because they are in our Church or parishes, we know what to expect of them. When they do not meet that bar, we begin to judge them. This is wrong (Matthew 7:3-5). We must bear with one another with love. We must be united in peace; of one body and one spirit (Philippians 2:2, 1 Peter 3:8). We have one Lord and must be of one faith and one baptism. This means we should all believe in the same God and believe the same thing.  The ideas and labels of "Conservative Catholic," "Liberal Catholic," "Traditionalist," "Progressive," etc must disappear from our Catholic culture.  We must be of one faith (John 17:21). Moreover, those that believe in Christ must be of one baptism. It is a big scandal that there are over 30,000 sects calling themselves "Christian" and the "true church." Christ only founded one Church, not Churches (Matthew 16:18).  Christ has only one bride (Ephesians 5:25-27).  We must work hard to bring our separated friends back home to Rome (Luke 5:4, 2 Timothy 2:25, James 5:20). We must evangelize all those around us and bring them to eat of the baskets, so to speak as we read in today's Gospel.

The Gospel tells us of one of the most well-known and popular miracles Jesus had performed: the Multiplication of Loaves and Fishes. We are told that a large crowd follows Jesus.  They are following Him because of the signs and wonders He performed; namely, healing the sick. Jesus goes up on a mountain with His disciples. The "mountain" is where God resides (Psalms 125:2, Exodus 19:16-19).  Passover is coming up soon.  We are told this for a reason. The miracle Jesus is about to perform is connected to the Passover.  Jesus notices the huge crowd and asks Philip, "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?"  The question is a strange one because why would God need to buy food? Why would the creator of space, time, matter, and energy need to buy food?  This is why the Gospel says, "He said this to test Him, because He Himself knew what He was going to do."  So we see here Jesus was playing the "human role," so to speak.

Philip tells Jesus that not even nearly a year's worth of wages is enough to buy the crowd food. Andrew then interjects saying that a boy has five barley loaves and two fish but then asks what good would these do. Jesus then tells them to tell the people to relax on the grass.  The Gospel is careful to tell us this by stating, "Now there was a great deal of grass in that place."  Sound familiar? We read of this last week where God Himself will bring back the sheep to the meadows and will care for them on verdant pastures (see: Jeremiah 23:1-6, Psalm 23, Sacerdotus: 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time - The Flock He Shepherds) Here we are seeing how God is bringing the sheep back to the meadow. This is why the Gospel mentions that "there was a great deal of grass in that place" to make the connection that God is present as a shepherd.  Jesus then takes the loaves from the boy. This boy to me is like the first altar boy ever and is the Gospel I love to use when I used to train altar servers.

Anyhow, Jesus gives thanks and distributes it to those 5,000 present. After the distribution was done and everyone ate their fill, they gathered what was left showing that Jesus was not part of what our Holy Father Pope Francis calls a "throw-away culture." When the leftovers were collected, there were twelve baskets left over.  The number twelve is significant in the Sacred Scriptures and is mentioned 187 times.  The number twelve symbolizes God's holy people; God's power and authority, and completion.  This number is a product of three (3x3x3x3=12 /  3^4=12) which represents the Holy Trinity.  There were twelve tribes, twelve patriarchs, and twelve apostles. Furthermore, notice what the people say when they had their fill, "This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world." This is connected to the promise God told Moses in Deuteronomy 18:18.

The miracle of using five loaves and two fish showed them that Jesus outdid Elijah, their greatest prophet. By using five loaves and two fish, Jesus uses seven items indicating the number of God or total perfection. This means that this miracle was done not by a mere human prophet, but by the one who is represented by "number 7" or God Himself.  The five loaves represent the body of Christ (bread/Holy Eucharist) and the five wounds of Christ (Matthew 26:26). The fish represent baptism; that the disciples are fishers of men, and the dual (hypostatic union) nature of Christ (Human/Divine) (1 Corinthians 10:1-4, Matthew 4:19, John 20:28, Mark 15:39). This miracle is done when Passover is approaching which is a foretelling of the Holy Eucharist where Christ feeds us with Himself under the form of bread and wine (John 6:25-59). The loaves are connected to the Old Testament and the events surrounding Passover which reveal who Jesus really was to the Jews of His time and us today. Jesus was preparing the people for the Holy Eucharist.  Unfortunately, the closure of parishes last year was a disaster and should not have happened. Many do not have faith in the Real Presence, to begin with, according to statistics. Now, things are worse. By closing parishes and denying the people the Mass and sacraments, the bishops sent a very bad message that the spiritual is ineffective and useless.  The truth is, we need the Eucharist now more than ever. The Eucharist is Jesus Himself!  Jesus will never spread disease. Now with the Delta variant spreading so quickly, we need to rely on God.  Man, Science, and even religion have failed. It is now God and our faith that we have left.  Let us trust in God and allow Him to feed us daily.  May Jesus Christ be praised!

Readings: Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time | USCCB

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