17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (B)


Where can we buy enough food for them to eat? (Gospel ).

One of the greatest joys of my youth was when my parents would announce that we were going to a picnic with some of our aunts, uncles and cousins. I especially liked those picnics held at Mary’s Pond. It did not take much to change the atmosphere from the usual to a special family celebration:  a few sandwiches, pop, chips, cookies and lots of water-splashing.  Bass Lake here in California reminds me of those days. But Mary’s Pond was so much smaller.    It seemed on such a day that all the problems of our young lives seemed to disappear at this family picnic.

The gathering of the people on the mountainside in today’s Gospel brings those days back to me.  A people hungry for some new refreshment in their lives were gathered around Jesus and his disciples. Their hunger by this time had broken through from their spirit to their stomachs.  Jesus was concerned about having something to feed the crowd.  What can we offer this hungry throng, Jesus would ask.

Today we stand before the world and sense the hungers of humanity, hungers that touch the spirit as well as the body.  Poverty has touched the depths of humanity and the selfishness of human riches has failed to respond to the need of human life. So before the hungers of mankind, Jesus offers us three reasons to contemplate our responsibility to feed the poverty now being experienced by human souls: we must bring our few gifts to the Lord, share what we have and what we are to make right what is wrong in the world and know that nothing will be wasted that is shared for the good of all.

First, the little that we have is not too little.   We hear about innocent lives being taken by the atrocities of selfish nations and greedy people. We hear of the cry of the unborn being aborted from the womb.  Innocent communities and families are victimized by terrorist leaders, by those deranged by drugs, or persons longing for material wealth or power. We see moral institutions being silenced to the public and immoral values being legalized and encouraged as social blessings.  How do we respond to these obvious assaults against souls, families and nations? 

Our first response may be one of discouragement or inability to make a change in the face of a failing society.  But the Lord in Eucharist gives us the opportunity of taking inventory of what we do have to work with.

Andrew speaks of a five barley loaves (barley is seen as the bread of the poor) and a few fish.  This is hardly enough to handle all these people.  We are limited in our private capacity, our meager gifts, our insufficient funds or lack of clout and power to affect social and political assistance.  But, gather all of these little portions in the Eucharistic presence of Christ and they become food for the world.  We come to the Eucharist so that the miracle on the mountain side can become the miracle that feeds the needs of today’s world.

Just one Word came into this world and when that Word was made flesh, it began the universal healing of mankind.  We bring our one gift to the Lord so that he might bless our measly contribution and make it gift for universal change. Let us not discount anything in even our limited capacity.

Secondly, we must serve what we have. Sometimes it would seem that we would rather die from the starvation evil brings into this world than offer a little bit of love, compassion, healing, or care.  When we gather our gifts, something happens in the gathering that blesses the sharing.  One of the things that touches me about our own community is that whenever there is a need, each contributor brings something that leads to a special great work of love: a church is built, the hungry in our community are fed, the struggling are assisted by our prayers and works of charity.

Just recently  I was reading how already new possibilities are  being created to bypass the demands of the HHS’ contraception mandate with the assistance of a Christian health care sharing program being empowered and set to function by early 2013.  You can catch the details on the internet at EWTN.  I am not saying this is the final answer to the problem, but it could be a way of feeding the need of present society while we look for a deeper conversion of mankind.  

Nothing will happen if we do nothing, but if we do something, if we bring something of the love and charity of Christ in our Eucharistic gatherings we may find that as Church and children of God we will allow the doors of something greater to open and to respond to the increasing demands of society in the modern world.  Our gifts must be sanctified and consecrated by hearts renewed in Eucharist and set forth in service. Movement of grace awakens the sleeping soul and sets it in a creative mode that transforms the little into the great difference.

Finally, nothing is wasted.  One does not waste time picking at stones in the face of adverse giants, like David before Goliath. We may at times feel that we have so little to offer, but when we give our little be it in prayer, offerings, service, awareness and readiness, our contribution to the communion of humanity in Christ is never too little, never too much.  Whatever we do out of love will be treasured for a need now or in the future. What seems little to us now may become the foundation of major conversions in the future because of a word we said or a helping hand we gave.  Personal witness, honest conversion, parish renewal, a simple touch or encouragement for good, may eventually make a vast difference. A spiritually honest parish is one that changes the world through simple actions.  It does not hide under agendas and personal feelings.. Each contributes the little he or she has and the abundance of love allows us to become Eucharist with Christ, showing our appreciation to the Father for his gifts to each of us and gathering what we have to help make a change where a society has become stagnant in selfish longings.

The gathering on the mountainside in the scripture and in our local community speaks not so much of what Jesus gives to us, but what we give to Jesus that he may accomplish the miracle of his life, love and truth among us. “The hand of the Lord feeds us. He answers all our needs.” (Psalm 145)  What will I contribute to our Eucharist through my life today? What miracle are we allowing the Lord to perform before our very eyes? Let us start by doing each day whatever little or great we can to make a difference.




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