A reflection for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Cycle B. The readings are 2 Kings 4:42-44, Psalm 145, Ephesians 4:1-6, and John 6:1-15
This Sunday kicks off what we refer to as the “Bread of Life Discourse,” which we will listen to for the next four weeks. It is taken from John, chapter six. I will be taking the opportunity to deacon-struct the Mass. But first, a reflection on one of the most well-known stories of the New Testament: the five loaves and two fish.
This story of the feeding of the multitudes is the only miracle that appears in all four Gospels. In fact, in Mark and Matthew it appears twice in each. In John, which is the one read in Catholic Mass this Sunday, the miracle happens just before the Passover, and it takes place in the same chapter where later Jesus is going to declare, “I am the bread of life.”
So clearly, this story is of importance, and for John it has something to do with the Eucharist: Jesus is the bread of life who feeds the world.
How does Jesus feed us?
Jesus can very well feed the crowds all by himself. But He doesn’t. He asks Philip, “How do you think we should feed these people?
” In the other Gospels, Jesus actually tells the disciples, “You, feed them.
” But Philip doesn’t get it. He gets stuck in the, “Are you crazy?
We can’t feed all these people! It’s like a gazillion people and we’d need like a million dollars to feed them!” (That's a pretty accurate paraphrasing of what's in Scripture.) He gets stuck in the despair.
How often do we get caught in the despair, in the “this is impossible; this is terrible!”?
But there's a little boy who doesn’t. He offers what he has. It’s way too much food for a little boy: 5 loaves and 2 fish. But it's not enough to feed 5000 people, or more: It may have been 5000 men. That’s not counting the women and children! There may have been 20,000 people there. But no matter, here’s my bread and my fish. In fact, barley loaves were the food of the poor. The rich could afford wheat for bread, but the poor ate barley loaves. So, “I don’t have a lot and it’s food for the poor, but here, you have it.
But sometimes we get caught in the, “Oh, I don’t have enough.” Or “what I have is not good enough.” “I only have a can of tuna and some macaroni and cheese and that’s food that goes to the food bank...”
So we get stuck in the insecurity and we don’t offer anything.
So here's my question for you today: What will you bring to Mass today? What are your five loaves and two fish?
I’ll tell you what I bring: my insecurities, my stress from work this week, my fears, my pain, but also my joys of this week, my dreams and my hopes.
I brought them on purpose.
All I have are my fears and my stress, my worries and my pain, my dreams and hopes, my happiness, my gifts and talents. It’s not much, but I bring it so I can offer it, so that Christ can transform it and multiply it, just as he did with the loaves and the fishes.
Sixteen years ago, I was working for World Youth Day 2002. This is one of the things about WYD: Young people come as they are, whoever they are, however they are, wherever they are. They come with their dreams and with their anxiety, with their confusions. It’s not necessarily a pleasant experience: You have to walk and it’s hot and you go hungry and you’re not sleeping, or sleeping on the floor, and it rained so you get wet and then it’s hot again so you get sunstroke.
But you offer it up and then Christ takes all that and transforms it and multiplies it.
I can say with 100% certainty that my vocation as a husband and as a parent was transformed at WYD. My vocation as a deacon was planted at WYD. And it was multiplied because it’s not just me: There are thousands others whose lives were transformed at WYD.
And I'd like to think that so many lives have been touched through my ministry.
But you don’t have to go to a WYD. You can start right here at home. What will you bring to Mass today? What do you bring to Mass every week? During the offertory, as the bread and the wine go up the aisle, it's good to take a little time to think about what the past week has given you and throw it in the basket as an offering.
Lay your offerings at the foot of the altar so that Christ can transform them and multiply them.
Do it every week.
Prepare for Mass. Plan what you’re bringing to Mass, so Christ can take it and multiply it.
I’m going to give you homework. Check out a website: www.thefiveloaves.com
. They have great resources to help you take what happens at Mass and apply it to the rest of the week and then to help you prepare for the following Sunday. It's a great resource to help us live the Eucharistic life between Sundays because so often we come to Mass and come Monday we’ve forgotten about Mass and it’s hard to keep that going all week.**
Then we’re stuck in the despair and the insecurity.
– and you’ll see that the little we have to offer – may not be a lot – may be five loaves and two fish, could be a can of tuna and a box of macaroni and cheese, may be only some barley loaves, may be your frustration at work or your concern about paying a bill. It may be a great joy or a great fear – bring it all – Christ will transform it and multiply it – so the world can be fed.
** I presume you're already doing this, but just in case, you can also keep coming here to saltandlighttv.org and get full on all the great articles and videos that we have.
Every week, Deacon Pedro takes a particular topic apart, not so much to explore or explain the subject to its fullness, but rather to provide insights that will deepen our understanding of the subject. And don’t worry, at the end of the day he always puts the pieces back together. There are no limits to deaconstructing: Write to him and ask any questions about the faith or Church teaching: [email protected]