FEASTING ON THE WORD
"If you meditate on the Scriptures it will appear to you in its brilliant splendor." ―St. Pio of Pietrelcina
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time ( B )
2 Kings 4:42-44 | Psalm 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18 | Ephesians 4:1-6 | John 6:1-15
The themes on this Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time invite us to reflect on caring for one another, living our calling to unity and bringing what we have to God.
Learning of a poor Hindu family in Calcutta who had been starving for many days, Saint Teresa of Calcutta visited them and brought a big parcel of rice to the mother. She was surprised to see how the mother divided the rice into two equal portions and went out with one bundle to give it to her Moslem neighbor. When she returned, The Saint of the Slums asked her why she had done such a generous deed. The woman replied: “My family can manage with half the rice in this bag. My neighbor’s family has several children and they are also starving."
The First Reading is a short story taken from a collection of stories about Elisha nearly all
showing him as a wonder worker. In this passage his mediation between God and the people ensures that there is enough to eat for everyone, despite a time of famine. Notably, the twenty loaves of barley and fresh ears of grain were intended as an offering to God, yet Elisha instructs the man from Baal-shalishah to share them among the people instead. This reminds us of the hungers around us and they challenge us that, we can put our resources to God’s service with trust that God will help us meet human needs – even though we may think we do not have enough resources. This brings to memory how some of us behaved in response to the perceived scarcity of basic needs at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. Fear sometimes brings a spirit of individualism that disregards the needs of others and ignores the connections among us. A spirit of hoarding consumed the nation and empty shelves testified to perceived scarcity. Authentic worship of God involves care for others, and in turn God’s providence becomes so intense, as it manifest in the abundance of food left over.
Once upon a time a heartless hunter shot a beautiful mother eagle. A hen, full of compassion took the eagle’s egg from its nest and put it with her own eggs. When the egg hatched the farmer who owns the hen named the baby eagle Chikita and treated her as he treated all baby chickens. As she was growing Chikita just assumed that she was a chicken like the others. One day Chikita saw some birds flying high in the sky. How Chikita envied those birds in the sky! She so much wished she could fly like they did. Unfortunately, no one told her that she was an eagle and could fly high up into the heavens. Then one day a stranger came into the barnyard, caught sight of Chikita and instantly recognized what she was, an eaglet — not a chick. He took her out into a nearby field and began to make her hop from his finger onto the ground. Gradually he increased the height of her perch on his hand. When he thought she was ready he threw his arm up high so she would fly. And she did. Oh, how she flew, wheeling and soaring in the bright, blue sky! Then she circled around the stranger’s head, and giving him a screeching cry, flew off into the sky above!
Germans have a saying, “Werde, was du bist” (Become what you are). The apostle Paul, in his letter to the Ephesians, tells us: “Live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” The whole point is that we should see ourselves as God sees us and likewise see others as God sees them. The virtues of humility, patience, gentleness, love and unity are not optional but are the tell-tale signs of God’s presence. They are also touchstones of individuals or communities that are truly living out divine precepts. Christians are united in one body and Spirit, sharing one hope. In baptism they professed belief in one Lord and one God and Father who is over all, works through all and is in all. Now they are called to become what they already are through their common faith and baptism. God is trying to tell us that we’re not little Chikitas, that we’re eagles. He’s trying to tell you and me that we can spiritually wheel and swoop in unison. We can soar high into the heavens like a convocation of eagles. Our unity bears witness to the Trinity, which is the source and model of all unity.
One day Mr. Jess Cababa, the high school Math teacher, was having her students solve problems on the board that day but no one seemed ready and no one wanted to get up before the class. Mr. Cababa asked, "Who would like to do the first problem, addition?" No one raised their hand so he called on Ronald, and with some help he finally got it right. "Who would like to do the second problem, subtraction?" All students hid their faces and wouldn't look at him. Finally, Mr. Cababa called on Paul, who eventually got the problem right. "Who would like to do the third problem, division?" Once again, no one looked at him and the teacher had to call on Angelo, who got it right. Finally, Mr. Cababa said, "Who would like to do the last problem, multiplication?" Once again, he didn't expect anyone to volunteer and started looking around the room for someone he could call on but, to his surprise, Renato's hand shot up. Mr. Cababa was shocked but finally regained his composure and asked, "Thank you, Renato. Why are you so excited about coming up here and answering this question?" Renato replied, "Because God told me to." "God told you to?" Asked Mr. Cababa. "Yes," Renato replied, "God said 'GO FOURTH AND MULTIPLY.'"
Today’s Gospel tells the story of a small boy who showed generosity. By sharing his small lunch which consisted of five barley loaves and two fried fish, he became the instrument in Jesus’ working of a miracle that fed thousands. This story gives us some insight into what God can do with a little. Like the young boy, God wants us to bring what we have to Him. The quantity does not matter. This boy's lunch appeared to be insufficient in proportion to the number of people and this boy appeared to be insignificant among the multitude of people. Our time, talent and treasure are clearly inadequate to meet the needs of a hungry world. This gospel commands us to put the little that we have in the hands of Jesus anyway, trusting that he can do a lot with a little and that whatever we give to him, he multiplies. So if you’re in a situation that needs a miracle, give God room to work through ways you never imagined or dreamed. Certainly, anyone can multiply with God. (enrique.ofs)
Jeff Jacinto, PhD, DHum