Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Year B

Bielecki, Michael.jpg

Fr. Michael H. Bielecki, O.S.A.
St. Thomas Monastery
Villanova, Pennsylvania

2 Kgs 4:42-44
Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18
Eph 4:1-6
Jn 6:1-15

For the next several weeks [with the exception of the Solemnity of the Assumption of Mary], we will hear from John’s gospel. The passages are called Jesus’ discourse on the Bread of Life.

As a Eucharistic people of faith, we are going to be invited, and challenged, to try and acknowledge how the Eucharist should satisfy our every hunger.

It takes profound faith to truly believe that Jesus is enough for us; especially when our society is constantly trying to convince us that we need more of everything. But Jesus is truly enough for us.

The life implication of today’s Liturgy of the Word is that Jesus still wants to feed a huge number of people, but it won’t happen without our help.

We are asked to identify with the boy with the loaves and fish in the gospel, and the servant in our first reading, who has enough faith that Elisha can place what he has before 100 people. Jesus expects us to have faith in his divine power to supply our every need.

Someone once complained to Mother Teresa about God’s lack of concern for the poverty in our world. The person asked: Why doesn’t God do something about the misery in our world? Mother Teresa responded: God did, God created you, so that through your hands and heart, others would be helped, and the misery in our would be alleviated. Jesus counts on us, to have the faith to believe our efforts count.

In the face of any enormous challenge, when we are asked to do something that seems beyond our capacity, we are all tempted to respond in the same way as those in our readings today: We don’t have enough. We don’t have what it takes to complete the task. I will need more, if I am expected to do something about this situation.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI has some wise advice for us. He says: “There are times when the burden of need and our own limitations might tempt us to become discouraged. But, precisely then, we are helped by the knowledge that, in the end, we are only instruments in the Lord’s hands; and this knowledge frees us from the presumption of thinking that we alone are personally responsible for building a better world… It is God who governs the world, not us. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength to do all we can with what strength we have… [As St. Paul says:] ‘The love of Christ urges us on.’ [2 Cor. 5, 14] We Christians should do what we can out of love; not out of a sense of obligation.” [Pope Benedict XVI, Deus Caritas Est, §35]

In Biblical times, barley bread was the bread of the poorest people. John the Evangelist chose it to symbolically bring home to his listeners [and us] the point that God can take our poverty, and multiply it for his needs, and make it sufficient, if only we trust Him, and hand over the little we have and are. God takes the poverty of our humanity and makes us, by his power, sufficient to meet the need at hand, if we allow him to do so.

But there are more hungers than physical hunger in our world. God uses those hungers — be they emotional, spiritual or psychological to make us realize how much we need God and others.

God invites us to work signs of his enduring love by relieving the hunger of others through our loving presence in their lives, and challenges people of goodwill to help satisfy our hunger by their loving service and attention to us in our needs. Christian community is the place where you and I feed others, by our help to them, and others feed us by their assistance to us. Our humanity is useful and enough for God’s use, just as the humanity of Jesus was useful and enough for God in manifesting His love for us in Christ.

Today’s good news is that God needs us, all of us! Whether young or old, rich or poor, healthy or sick, educated or uneducated, we have enough to work miracles.

There is an old Sufi tale about a seeker who traveled about the world looking to find the true God. He examined all religions and all communities in the hope of finding the perfect manifestation of God in life. On one of his trips, he stopped at a monastery and said to a monk, “Tell me, does your God work miracles?” The monk replied, “Well, it all depends on how you define a miracle. Some people think that it is a miracle if God does what they want. But here in this community, we think it a miracle when we do what God wants.”

Shortly our spiritual hunger will be fed in this Eucharist. St. Augustine said, “We are what we eat.” Let us pray at this Eucharist that we may become what we eat – THE BODY OF CHRIST – sufficient enough for God to work miracles, if we do His will.