17TH SUNDAY OF ORDINARY TIME
Well here we are nearly at the end of July and for us here in Ireland the summer break is almost at the half way mark. I’m sure the kids have been enjoying their time off from school and by the same token I am sure their parents are pulling their hair out wondering what are we going to do next, these days family life is not easy!!!
In the Gospel reading for this Sunday we hear the story of the feeding of the five thousand. The crowd is huge can you imagine five thousand people and all of them are hungry: for physical food in a deserted place and hungry for still more. They are hungry to be acknowledged, to feel counted and recognized. Like those of us gathered for Eucharist each Sunday, they are also hungry for what Jesus had to say about God. They hunger to know that God is on their side, when the rest of the world considers them insignificant. How can their physical hungers be fed, there is no food around? How can their spiritual and human hungers be noticed, their need to feel important, and their hunger to know God be filled? In their Roman- occupied world they are slaves. In their religious world, a long way from the seat of their faith in Jerusalem and the religious elite, these Galileans were considered next to pagans;
ignorant and a long way from God when in truth they were nearer to God than many of the righteous people of the day. There is some food there, but almost nothing in the light of the numbers who are hungry. In this story the food of the poor barley bread counts and it is not an insignificant gift. It’s given by a boy, it’s all he has, and he makes it available.We tend to measure the size of any problem that may arise and then back away, shrugging our shoulders, “What can I do about such a big problem?” Well we in simple terms have to face the problems head on and the boy in this Gospel is a good example for us: better to do something about the situation we are in than nothing at all. The life implication of this gospel is simple: Jesus wants to work the miracle of feeding a huge number of people who are hungry; but the miracle will not happen without someone to provide five barley loaves and two fish. The end of this passage is important: “and all ate and were satisfied. And they took up what was left over, twelve baskets of broken pieces”. Jesus asked the disciples to ensure that nothing was wasted: nothing thrown out!
The people in this story realize that Jesus had something to offer them in the deserted and lonely places in their lives. Jesus wasn’t just filling their stomachs he was also nourishing their souls. They weren’t rich, famous, educated or powerful; they were the afflicted and marginalized people that Jesus went out of his way to seek out. Life may have passed them by, but Jesus didn’t. He took note of them, and they in turn saw in him a place to be nourished, a place where deep hungers and longings of life would be fulfilled. The Gospel account of the multiplication of the loaves proclaims who Jesus is and provides food for thought and prayer. This Gospel also proclaims who we are as people who are hungry for what Jesus the bread of life has to say to us about God. Are we prepared to open our ears and listen to the message of Jesus in the Gospel so that we can pass that message on in what we say and do in our lives ?