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Pastor's Letter 20210725 - 25 July 2021 - The Hands of the Lord Feed Us


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July 25th, 2021

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

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Jesus feeds the multitude

A Message from Father †Michael

Today’s Theme:   “The Hands of the Lord Feed Us”

Reflections on Today’s Scripture

A popular folkloric figure, Elisha was, for the most part, motivated in his deeds by a concern for the poor and faithful remnant who survived in spite of the moral decadence that surrounded them (9th Century B.C.)  Besides the miraculous feeding of today’s First Reading (2 Kings 4:42-44,) the prophet was accredited with: multiplying oi8l to help a widow pay her debts; granting a child to an aged, barren woman, and then bringing that child back to life when he died; making poisoned soup edible; healing a leper, etc.  He has been compared to Francis of Assisi and his band of followers (13th Century A.D.)

In telling the story of Elisha and the hundred hungry men, the Deuteronomic historian sought to turn the eyes of his people outward from their self-sufficiency and to whet their spiritual appetites with an eschatological (end times) hunger.  Only with the appearance of Jesus, the Bread of Life, would that hunger be fully satisfied.

Because of the calling every Christian has received to be a beacon for the Gospel, every believer is challenged to assume a new way of living, characterized by a virtue made possible in the Holy Spirit.  In examining today’s Second Reading (Ephesians 4:1-6,) one can discern God’s great plan…the creation of a new people of God, freed from social, political and religious barriers; and made one by the love of God.  Christian living is a process of becoming what we ought to be, based on our faith.  Life must reflect faith and translate into intellectual assent and psychological credence of faith into a social, emotional, and above all, lived commitment.  As the guiding inner source of Christian life, the Holy Spirit makes unity, patience and humility possible.

All four Gospels relate the episode of the feeding of the multitudes, but only John called it a sign (John 6:1-15.)  Of all the acts of power performed by Jesus, only John selected just seven to include in his testament of the Good News. Each was a vehicle of revelation and an encounter with Jesus, as Lord.  In each one, a challenge was issued: those who witnessed the sign were summoned to go beyond it and believe in the One Whom the sign has revealed!  

Besides looking back into Israel’s tradition and remembering the manna fed to the Israelites in the desert (Exodus 16,) Jesus sign of the loaves ahead to the Holy Eucharist.  John tells us that “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and (He, Himself) distributed the bread to the people.”  (He is alone among the other evangelists making this last point.)  Although spiritual hunger may be eradicated by Jesus, it is we—His disciples—who must satiate physical hunger, with our own hands, for the needy.  

Food for the Hungry

Food is the first necessity of life.  Without it, no life is possible, much less a higher form of life.  Feeding the hunger is the first of the great Corporal works of Mercy.  At the last judgment, Jesus will say, “I was hungry and you gave Me food;” or He will say, “I was hungry and you did not give Me food.”  Jesus gave hungry people the only thing that mattered to them at the moment—food—and He did so with great generosity.  All ate as much as they wanted and there were twelve baskets of leftovers!  

Every loaf is as much a miracle as those Jesus gave to the people.  Every loaf is touched by many human hands, and is expressed beautifully in the prayer said by the priest in the Offertory of the Mass: “Blessed are You, Lord, God of all creation.  Through Your goodness we have this bread to offer, which earth has given and human hands have made.  It will become for us the bread of life.”

We see God’s miracles in the seasons of the year and the harvest.  In the corn and wheat fields grains are multiplied, so that if we do our part, there is enough for everyone.  Our world is preoccupied with food.  The developed nations are replete with abundance, while third world nations people face the problem of how to get anything to eat at all!  

Today’s account of Jesus miracle of multiplication should make us thankful for our abundance, and careful not to waste it.  More than 700 million people are said to suffer from inadequate food and undernourishment.  This leaves us with the problem of how to treat our surplus food.  Some think stockpiling is the answer, while others believe reduction in the amount produced would be more prudent.  Both approaches have drawbacks and may give scandal: stockpiles of food may be akin to nuclear stockpiles; while reduction in production may mean farmers are forced to leave land fallow.  

The miracle of the multiplication of the loaves is one of generosity.  We experience that generosity every time we gather at table with our families, and especially when we partake in the Holy Eucharist in our worship.  Generosity, then, should have a central place in the life of every Christian, and we have many opportunities in everyday dealings with one another to practice it.  It’s not only about giving things, but also, and more especially, about giving ourselves—our time, our energy and our love.  Joy is one of the lovely fruits of generosity. One rarely meets a generous person who is sad—and we’ll never meet a happy miser.

Understanding God’s Goodness

We must think of our abundance as a trust held in reserve for our brothers and sisters.  No one should pray, “Thank you God, for blessing me with money and possessions,” and then proceed to live as if they were alone in the world!  For the time will come when it will become apparent to us that we have been worshipping idols of good fortune and selfishness! Possessions are indeed signs of God’s blessing and goodness--in that we have been given talents and abilities with which to acquire them.  But, more importantly, they are also opportunities of service with which we have been entrusted.  

We might not be able to multiply the food as Jesus did, but we do not have to do so.  All we have to do is share it, or the money with which to buy it.  

Perhaps a better version of “grace before meals” might be: “Thank you Lord, for Your goodness to us, and especially for this plentiful food.  May we use Your gifts in such a way that others too will know Your goodness, and give you thanks as we do.”    

May God Richly Bless You!

“…We can beg for an increase of love in our hearts that will vitalize and transform all our individual actions,

And know that God will take them and multiply them, as Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes.”

~~ Dorothy Day~~ 

To view a recording of today's Holy Mass, click here:  https://youtu.be/X2YH71U0M6w

As We Gather at Your Table.docx 

Edited by Father Michael
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