17th SUNDAY(B) July 29, 2018
2 Kings 4: 42-44; Psalm 145; Ephesians 4: 1-6; John 6: 1-15
by Jude Siciliano, OP
Welcome to the latest email recipients of "First Impressions," the Dominican Sister retreatants from Springfield, Illinois.
Did you notice the similarities between the first reading from 2 Kings and today’s gospel? One of the reasons the first readings are chosen is because they point to their fulfillment in Jesus. Today the two readings run in close parallel to one another.
Both Elisha, the prophet, and Jesus respond to the hunger of the people before them. They enlist the services of others to feed the people – both meet with similar bewilderment. There are too many hungry people and too little food to feed them. Did you notice the bread in both stories is barley loaves? It wasn’t croissants or bagels, just the simple bread of the poor, provided from the midst of the people themselves. There is more than enough food to satisfy the their hunger and there are leftovers. In Jesus’ miracle, a lot of leftovers! People’s hunger will return and what the Lord gives is both more than enough for now – and the future.
The Elisha account reminds us that Jesus’ providing bread was not the first time God fed hungry people. Remember also the manna, and quail in the desert for the Israelites? But Jesus isn’t only providing food for the road, though he is doing that. He is also drawing the hungry together, not just to fill their stomachs, but to share a meal with him and one another.
When we eat our Eucharistic meal today it won’t just be for our own spiritual hungers. Eucharist is a community meal and we are reminded it is not just about our personal salvation. We are saved and fed as a community, and as a community we are called to feed others. Elisha and Jesus use the bread provided by others and so we ask: Who are the hungry and what bread do I have for them?
Notice that Jesus and his disciples don’t just toss out bread to outstretched hands. Instead, there is an accompanying ritual: the peoples’ bread is given to Jesus, who receives it, gives thanks and shares the food with the hungry. We learn that we don’t just feed people’s physical hungers. We also offer them our presence and commitment – a very nourishing and satisfying food for the many hungers of modern people.
All those people Jesus and his disciples fed that day entered into a new relationship with one another and with him. We can see why John and the early church saved the story. The feeding of the crowds is more than a miracle story of multiplied bread. It is a lesson for us about Eucharist: about hungry people coming to the altar to fill their hungers and then, as refreshed disciples, going forth to do the same for others.
Meals these days can be rushed affairs: we grab "a bite" on the run. Parents consider themselves lucky if they can get all their family members around a table a few times a week. Forget about having a Sunday meal with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins. Those days are gone. But in Jesus’ day meals were not casual get-togethers; they were significant, though seeming-ordinary events.
Eating with others strengthened family bonds and ties with friends. If enemies sat and ate together, the meal reconciled them with one another.
Together we eat at the same table, where sins are forgiven, and separations bridged. We may be strangers to one another, but at this table we are a community formed and nourished by Jesus, our bread of life. Through our actions shall we be a sign to others of Jesus’ continued presence and concern for our world? He turns to us and asks the same question he asked his disciples: "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" Like them, we see the people’s needs and our own inadequacies as well. We also shrug our shoulders and say, "We just don’t have enough to feed them!" But he takes what few gifts we place at his disposal, our "barley loaves," blesses them and feeds the hungry with them.
It wasn’t just a meal for the thousands by the sea of Galilee, was it? It was also a reminder that Jesus would give us himself – blessed and broken– from the cross. He renewed the covenant God made with the hungry, wandering people in the desert and, with this meal, he renews the covenant with us as well.
I don’t think the miracle of the bread impresses, or convinces, modern people. They look at Jesus’ miracles, if they acknowledge them at all, as past wonders. So, trying to draw others to faith because of Jesus’ wonder-working, miraculous powers, doesn’t go very far. To modern ears it’s all part of a long-gone age and a tale about "simple people." Perhaps more convincing than the works Jesus performed, are his words and deeds. Jesus brought healing to people’s lives. He is the "bread of life" and could satisfy their, and our deepest hungers. He walked on the water once; but he continues to calm our fears and enable compassion in us for those still burdened by sin, ignorance and confusion.
In some cases today, miracles still occur. But what occurs more regularly and with less fanfare, is the wonder of God’s grace that permeates all of our living. We may not be able to testify to a recent "miracle" that has happened in our lives; but we can witness how often God works in the most ordinary ways. As ordinary as the barley loaves that fed the multitude.
During the civil rights struggle in our country, people were very agitated about their table companions. They refused to eat with people of other races. In the crowd by the sea of Galilee that day, there certainly were those considered sinners and ritually unclean by the devout. Women were there too; the healthy and the sick; citizens and foreigners; different races; the comfortable and the poor. Yet, there were no restrictions on who could, or couldn’t, eat the meal. All ate, or were welcome at Jesus’ table. None got an exclusive menu with choices. They ate the same food: Jesus was offering himself to everyone. Just as bread was broken and shared for all, so would he be – and is, at our table today.
Click here for a link to this Sunday’s readings:http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072918.cfm
The seed of God is in us
Now the seed of a pear tree
grows into a pear tree
and a hazel seed into a hazel tree
a seed of God
grows into God.
Meister Eckhardt, OP
JUSTICE BULLETIN BOARD
Elisha insisted, "Give it to the people to eat. For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’"
--2 Kings 4:43
Often, we underestimate what we can do to help people. So, in today’s reading, God has sent his ninth century B.C. prophet, Elisha, to encourage the feeding of a large number of people. We have both Elisha and Jesus as examples of what we are to do. Called to "walk with" others who may be traveling a very lonely, impoverished road, we feed them literally and at the same time develop relationships through kindness, fellowship, and attentive listening. There are wonderful ministries here at Cathedral that fulfill this Christian role with love and compassion. They are all in need of additional parishioners to help. Please say "yes!" and join.
Family Promise--Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral is one of over 50 faith organizations who serve as a support congregation by helping feed meals to homeless families for a week quarterly. Family Promise keeps families together while they recover from homelessness. Mary Matza and Patricia La Paglia coordinate two teams at host churches adjacent to Sacred Heart Campus downtown.
Helen Wright Shelter--Providing lodging and programs for single homeless women, Cathedral has two teams that alternate serving meals once a month on Fridays. The shelter will be moving in 2019 and doubling beds to 75. We need to add more cooks to help serve this increasing number. Ann Petro and Mary Erazim are the coordinators.
Moore Square Meals Ministry-- Provides meals to the hungry at Oak City Outreach Center on the 2nd and 3rd Saturdays of every month. Without this ministry, the homeless would not have food on the weekend. Next year, this ministry will move to a new facility next to the men’s shelter. John Young and Elizabeth White are the coordinators.
Catholic Parish Outreach--This ministry serves food by being the largest food pantry in Wake County for needy families and individuals in our community. Parishioners can choose to help with greeting or interviewing clients, packing or distributing food bags, or sorting and distributing children’s clothing. They are needed to work one day a month (Mon.-Sat. (9:30-1:30). CPO is located at 2013 N. Raleigh Blvd. Mary Overcash is the coordinator.
AS YOU CAN SEE, YOU ARE NEEDED! Contact the coordinator through office e-mail:firstname.lastname@example.org or leave a message at 919-865-8966. Come multiply loaves.
---Barbara Molinari Quinby, MPS
Director of Social Justice Ministries
Holy Name of Jesus Cathedral, Raleigh, NC
Mini-reflections on the Sunday scripture readings designed for persons on the run. "Faith Book" is also brief enough to be posted in the Sunday parish bulletins people take home.
From today’s Gospel reading:
One of Jesus’ disciples...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 has noticed the hungers of our world. He asks us the same question he asked his disciples: "Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?" Like his disciples, we see the people’s needs and our own inadequacies as well. We shrug our shoulders and say, "We just don’t have enough to feed them!" But Jesus wants to address their hungers. He takes what few gifts we place at his disposal, our "barley loaves," blesses them and feeds the hungry with them.
So we ask ourselves:
POSTCARDS TO DEATH ROW INMATES
"One has to strongly affirm that condemnation to the death penalty is an inhuman measure that humiliates personal dignity, in whatever form it is carried out."
Inmates on death row are the most forgotten people in the prison system. Each week I post in this space several inmates’ names and addresses. I invite you to write a postcard to one or more of them to let them know we have not forgotten them. If you like, tell them you heard about them through North Carolina’s, "People of Faith Against the Death Penalty." If the inmate responds you might consider becoming pen pals.
Please write to:
----Central Prison, 4285 Mail Service Center, Raleigh, NC 27699-4285
For more information on the Catholic position on the death penalty go to the Catholic Mobilizing Network:http://catholicsmobilizing.org/resources/cacp/
Also, check the interfaith page for People of Faith Against the Death Penalty:http://www.pfadp.org/
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4. "First Impressions" is a service to preachers and those wishing to prepare for Sunday worship. It is sponsored by the Dominican Friars. If you would like "First Impressions" sent weekly to a friend, send a note to fr. John Boll, OP at the above email address.
Thank you and blessings on your preaching,
fr. Jude Siciliano, O.P.
St. Albert the Great Priory of Texas
3150 Vince Hagan Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736