HOMILY – 17th sunday Ordinary Time, Cycle B – The Feeding of the 5000

This is one I was particularly proud to present. I was affored the opputunity to refute the oh so common “Jesus just taught us all to share” hogwash that so often gets put out when this reading comes up. I leave it for all you readers to judge if I hit the mark.

The readings for this Sunday were 2 Kgs 4:42-44, Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18, Eph 4:1-6, Jn 6:1-15.

One particularly helpful technique that our great Homiletics Instructor taught us – the awesome Father Jeff Nicolas, Pastor at Epiphany by the way – is that sometimes you have to pop a few balloons in your homilies.

What he was referring to was a technique he called a “Counter Punctual”. A punctual simply is something that gets in the way – like a balloon that blocks people’s vision – and sometimes you need to “pop it” so people can see the real point, hence the term “COUNTER” punctual.

Basically what this means is that there are just some stories or issues where there are already preconceived notions or ideas in most everyone’s minds, often erroneous but sometimes just unimportant, and unless you deal with them up front, people just naturally tend to drift toward them and not hear anything else you have to say.

So it is with this Gospel today.

So let me try and clear this one up before we go any further.

THIS WAS A REAL MIRACLE!

What we just heard was the account of the Feeding of the 5000 from John’s gospel but this miracle is actually the ONLY ONE– apart from the Resurrection itself – that appears in ALL FOUR GOSPELS.

So as Miracles go, it tends to have a great big bulls eye painted on it.

It is quite often the one that so many in our modern skeptical culture tend to grab hold of and attempt to “deconstruct,” usually in a misguided attempt to find the “Historical Jesus.” They invariably end up saying things like “Jesus didn’t ACTUALLY multiply 5 loaves and 2 fish here – he just taught everybody to share.”

I’ve got one word to say in response to all that – Hogwash (to put it politely.)

Make no mistake – this miracle was REAL and it
happened pretty much as you just heard it.

The Feeding of the 5000 was a very public prelude for one of the Gospel’s clearest and unambiguous teachings – indeed this passage that we heard today is the beginning the very famous Sixth Chapter of John’s Gospel and we will hear almost ALL of it over the next four Sundays.

Jesus used this astonishing, large scale miracle to teach about an even greater miracle that was yet to come – “a very hard teaching” as we will hear about in the coming weeks.

The Eucharist – the Source and Summit of our faith.

Indeed the source and summit of LIFE.

One of the major messages that reoccurs over and over again throughout John’s gospel – and it’s one of the reasons that his is my favorite hands down – is that JESUS CHRIST IS LIFE – AND HE FREELY AND LOVINGLY GIVES HIMSELF – AND THEREBY IT – TO US.

“I AM THE RESSURECTION AND THE LIFE” he told to Martha on his way to raise her brother Lazarus.

“I WILL GIVE YOU LIVING WATER” he told the Woman at the Well.

When Jesus multiplied the loaves and the fishes here, he very consistently did so in order to give LIFE – ON THE SURFACE AT LEAST it was in the form of simple, basic nourishment that the many people there on the grass needed to sustain themselves.

But on a much deeper level, what he did there was to set the stage for his institution of the Eucharist, and this miracle tells us a great deal about that very thing.

The EUCHARIST is not a simple food – it is the ONE TRUE WAY of SPIRITUALLY nourishing our souls FOREVER – again, it is Christ’s FREE GIFT to us which brings us the divine gift of grace every time we receive it – and it is the very best means we have for us to achieve ETERNAL Life.

Have you heard stories of “profound spiritual experiences” that some people have had when receiving the Eucharist?

Have you ever perhaps had such an experience yourself?

And if you haven’t, and I submit that most of us have not, have you ever wondered why not?

Put another way, do you sometimes felt like you’re just getting in the Communion Line, going up and receiving the host (I REFUSE to call it a wafer by the way) and then going home unaffected?

Why is that you might ask? How can the same Christ affect so many people so differently?

The answer to this question is that OUR DISPOSITION to the Sacrament when we receive it has a DIRECT and SIGNIFICANT effect on HOW Christ interacts within us.

In case you think I’m making this up, I refer you to Catechism in paragraph 1128:
“From the moment that a sacrament is celebrated in accordance with the intention of the Church, the power of Christ and his Spirit acts in and through it. Nevertheless, the fruits of the sacraments also depend on the disposition of the one who receives them.”

God respects our free will – and our CHOOSING to love him is an INTERIOR act first and foremost.

His grace is always there, but how it works on us has US as a key component – just getting in line and receiving him it seems is just not enough.

What I’m really talking about here, primarily, is the oh so easy tendency we often find ourselves in by being overwhelmed by other thoughts – worries, anxieties, and even good things like plans for what we’re going to do later on – when we receive communion.

We don’t realize that by letting all these other thing cloud our minds, we’re crowding out the space Christ needs to fill us with his LIFE –- and by us doing this we’re short circuiting (for lack of a better term) the very thing we need most of all – and the sad thing is we usually don’t realize we’re even doing it.
Thomas More wrote on this extensively by the way – seems he had the same problem from time to time.

My point in all this is that we don’t need to see loaves and fishes multiplied before our eyes to be able to witness miracles. Miracles are performed on this altar every time mass is celebrated and we see it every week. Yet it is truly very much our own responsibility as to how we bring ourselves to the table of the Lord every week as to the extent he works within us.

I urge you all to prepare yourselves properly – clear your minds through active participation in the liturgy and most of all through regular and attentive personal prayer.

I can promise you that the experience you receive will be amazingly fulfilling in ways you cannot imagine.

3 Comments

  1. Jean

    Hi, I’ve just found your blog and how I agree with it! Every week our priest says “Of course Jesus, didn’t say that/ didn’t do that…” and like you I want to shout out HOGWASH! Why would anyone read the bible if they being continually told it didn’t happen? As I was leaving Mass one day I asked him”How do you know Jesus didn’t say those things?” (the beatitudes) and he laughed and said “I was there!!” and moved me on!

    I suffer…and pray…and pray! I figure if Jesus can endure it so can I!!!

  2. Deacon

    Thank you so very much for your kind words. I know many people suffer this issue a lot – usually accompanied by a cavalier attitude that “they” know more than “we” do. Usually this stems from a largess of pride – we should always pray for healing for those who (at least seem) to suffer from it.

    They also tend to overlook the obvious – even IF for a minute they were right – and how they could possibly be is really a matter of opinion – all the words of sacred scripture are STILL spoken from the HOLY SPIRIT through inspiration. They are just as true and valid and important from HIM as they are from Christ.

    To me it’s just an illustration of hubris – and worse, if instills grave DOUBT in almost anyone who hears such – no matter how it was intended.

    Take care, be strong, and go in God’s grace!

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