Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Second Book of Kings, Psalm 145:10-11, 15-18, Ephesians 4:1-6, & John 6:1-15
Section of 'Feeding the Multitude' a fresco by Raffaellino del Garbo
We can sometimes find ourselves in situations beyond our abilities to cope when the gap between our resources (money, food, logistical items) and the issue to be dealt with (health or employment) seem too great. We feel a sense of helplessness which drains us of the energy to tackle the problem. The challenge is too great to be faced.
In today's Gospel narrative, we have an example of this kind of apparent powerlessness.
Jesus and the disciples face a massive crowd of hungry people in a desolate place. They are hungry, and the resources to feed them don't appear to be there. The sense of being "overwhelmed" by the task is evident by the comments made by the disciple Phillip. He says, "Two hundred days' wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little." Andrew then comments that a boy is present with five barley loaves and two fish and adds, "But what good are these for so many?"
The Lord Jesus was just as aware as His disciples of the enormous task ahead and the lack of resources. However, He did not share their sense of hopelessness. He knew that in some way, the small boy with the five barley loaves and two fish was the "key" to feeding the vast crowd. We cannot be sure what exactly happened that day, but it seems clear that the boy and his few loaves and fish played a significant role. I suspect that there was only enough food for a simple meal for his family, yet the boy was willing to hand what had over to Jesus. Our Lord was then able to work with the boy's generous gift to feed and satisfy everyone.
The feeding of the multitude is one of the very few stories about Jesus in all four Gospels. All four evangelists saw a connection between what happened in the wilderness on that day and what happened at the Last Supper and what happens during the Liturgy of the Eucharist at Mass. Just as Jesus transformed the boy's gift of five barley loaves and two fish into a feast for thousands, He transforms our simple gifts of bread and wine into a spiritual feast for all—the bread of life and the cup of salvation. The way the Lord works in the Eucharist is how He works in the rest of our lives. He takes the little we offer to Him and, using it, in the words of Saint Paul, transforms us into that which "is abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine."
Question of the Day: How will you share your gifts from God with those who are hungry and in need?
Prayer: "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and never forget all His benefits." (Psalm 103 (102):3)