July 29, 2018 17th Sunday on Ordinary Time Fr Jim Miller

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Reading 1 2 KGS 4:42-44

Responsorial Psalm PS 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

  1. The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Reading 2EPH 4:1-6

Alleluia LK 7:16

Gospel JN 6:1-15

Homily—July 28 & 29, 2018


The first reading this weekend is from the 2nd Book of Kings with an unnamed man bringing the prophet Elisha 20 barley loaves made from the first fruits and fresh grain in the ear.  Not much is known of this small village of Baalshalishah, southwest of Shechem. We don’t know why the man brings the loaves to Elisha.  Most likely the offering is a gesture of gratitude, affection and honor.

Elisha receives the bread but surprisingly, he does not eat it or save it for himself.  Instead, he wants the bread to be shared among a hundred people who are surrounding his house.  The man thinks that he does not have enough to feed 100 men but Elisha insists that he do it and uses a prophetic word that begins with the phrase, “For thus says the Lord.”  This phrase is known as a prophetic messenger formula used to lend authority to the divine message about to be proclaimed by a prophet. The man distributes the bread among the people.  They all eat, and astonishingly, some bread is left over.

The common interpretation of this story is that the prophet Elisha has shown his power as a true prophet of God.  Elisha has uttered a divine word, and that word is fulfilled.

Another possibility is that it shows the power of sharing.  The point that some bread was left over after all had eaten demonstrates that no one over-consumed.  People took what was sufficient and were mindful that 100 of them had to eat from 20 loaves. The virtues of mindfulness and sharing led to an abundance for all.  In a world where countless people go hungry every night while some others have to jog off their super-sized meals offers much food for thought.

I am trying to eat less and to cut portions in half when I eat out and then I can have a second meal at home as leftovers.

In the gospel of John Jesus has crossed the Sea of Galilee from Capernaum to near Bethsaida only to see a crowd coming toward him.  Jesus asked Philip where they could buy enough food to feed the crowd. Philip was from Bethsaida. He did a mental calculation of the cost to feed this crowd and states it would be more than 200 days pay.  Andrew said there is a boy present with five barley loaves and two fish. One commentary stated that the loaves were the size of a dinner roll and the fish would have been dried fish. I wonder if the boy willingly gave the food to Jesus.   I hope so. The multiplication of the loaves and fish did not start with nothing: Jesus was able to feed the crowds because one boy was willing to share what little he had; from his gift, small though it was, Jesus worked a wonder. Sharing this food with such a large crowd must have seemed like a crazy thing to do but then there were 12 baskets left over.  There was one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel or one for each of the Apostles. The people now recognize Jesus as a Prophet and Jesus retreats to the mountain. In the biblical world, mountains are frequent places of solace, solitude, prayer and the encounter with God.

With the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus transforms a crowd of all ages, abilities, and backgrounds into a community of generosity.  That vision of being a Eucharistic community is recreated each time we gather here. That is the challenge of the gospel and the mandate of the Eucharist that is foreshadowed in this miracle story:  to take up the hard work of reconciliation and compassion begun by God, who dwells here on our own grassy plain; to humbly bring the peace of God’s dwelling place into our own homes; to become the Body and Blood of Jesus that we receive at his table where all—saints and sinners—are welcomed.

Pope Francis often says, “If we pray to a God who doesn’t astonish or surprise us, we are praying to the wrong God.”  Today we are worshiping the right God who astonishes and surprises. He astonishes his disciples by taking ordinary food—bread and fish—from an ordinary, young boy, and amazes everyone by telling his disciples to begin feeding the large crowd of over 5,000.

In life, believers face difficult challenges and tasks.  They may have faith and trust in God, but still, doubts may exist.  However, when we rise up, do our best and trust in God, we often achieve more than we thought possible.  This is the power of faith, giving us the ability to trust that God will get us through whatever is before us.  

Do you believe that God hears your prayers and helps you?

Have you ever been asked to do something that made you feel inadequate, but with God’s help you did it well?


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