SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME (B)
A Reflection: by Rev. Fr. Allen Baclor Abadines
GOSPEL: JOHN 6:1-15
Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near. When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him because he himself knew what he was going to do. Philip answered him, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little. One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples. Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain.
The Gospel of the Lord/ Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.
Today’s Gospel text – the multiplication of loaves and fishes – indeed, is very important … so important that it is the only miracle account that is recorded by all four evangelists. The story may seem so simple. But it gives us a very profound insight. Something that we must ponder upon as it is ever relevant in our lives as Christians. Some spiritual writers reasoned out that there was no actual miracle that took place during the feeding of the multitude. They claimed that Jesus only inspired the spirit of sharing of what they have with one another. That made it appear to have a miracle of the multiplication of bread and fish. For them, that spirit of collective sharing and generosity was the real miracle. But that is not true …indeed, there was a miracle. Yes, there was a hungry crowd and Jesus moved with compassion asked Philip “Where are we to buy bread for these people to eat?” The scripture explained to us that Jesus “said this to test him, for he himself knew what he was going to do.” Jesus knew that he could perform wonders. Like he was able to turn water into wine, he walked on water, he cleansed the lepers, raised the dead and so why not feed the multitude? Jesus blessed the five loaves and two fish, distributed them to feed the huge crowd, they were satisfied and collected twelve wicker baskets of leftovers.
We need to see this miracle as a sign given by God. To dismiss this as a miracle will surely affect our understanding of the miracle of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist. This is the very reason why in today’s Gospel, St. John makes it clear to us that this miracle is a sign. Which means to say that it points beyond itself to a higher reality. This miracle of Jesus should go beyond “awe and amazement” at the miracle per se but it should lead us to a deeper understanding of who Jesus is. The sign should point to Jesus himself. It should lead us to the recognition that Jesus is our Lord and saviour. That Jesus came to provide us with food that will nourish for all eternity. That Jesus came to sustain us as we journey to our ultimate destiny which is heaven. The miracle of the feeding of the multitude is a sign whose meaning is realized at the Last Supper where Jesus instituted the Eucharist, and in which Jesus further gives meaning by his offering of himself on the Cross and which will be fully realized in the heavenly banquet. This is the place where Jesus wants to gather all his children. John 14:2 “In my Father’s house are many rooms: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.” Ergo, if we deny the miracle that is contained in the feeding of the multitude, then how could we understand fully the miracle that is in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The Gospel text reveals to us once again how much Jesus loves us. He is true to his word that he will be with us until the end of time nourishing us, sustaining us in our journey until we reach our ultimate destiny.
But what is this particular text trying to teach us? Actually, it highlighted Jesus compassion towards mankind. Jesus takes care not only of our spiritual needs but even our physical needs. He understands fully the human longings, sufferings, and needs. He gives us an image of a loving shepherd sustaining and nourishing our hunger. But just as we have a compassionate Lord, he also wants us to be compassionate with one another. He wants us to feel the suffering of our neighbor and do something about it. Let me elaborate this point by sharing with you a story:
Story (Willi Hoffsuemmer) There was once a very poor mother with three children. And next door lived a very rich lady, who also had three children. This lady was so stingy that she would never give anything to poor people.
It so happened that the poor mother was again all out of bread. Her children were very hungry. So she went to the rich lady and said, “Could you please give me just one loaf of bread for my poor children, who are almost starving?” “I don’t have any bread for myself,” said the rich lady. “So how can I give some to you?” “But,” said the poor lady, “you are so rich. I am sure that you must have a little bit of bread somewhere in your cupboard.” “No, I don’t. If I do, then may God change every bit of it into stone,” said the rich lady. So the poor lady went away crying. And the rich lady said to her children, “Now let’s go and make a nice jam and butter sandwich.” So she went to the cupboard to take out the bread. But all the bread had turned to stone.
The lady was shocked. Off she ran straight to the bakery and bought bread and cakes for the poor lady. And she also got some flour and meat and butter to go along with it. “Lady,” she said, as she handed over the gifts, “I will never again be selfish. God has turned all my bread into stones. If it would only turn back into bread so my children would have something to eat…”
Then she went back home and the stones in the basket turned back into bread. Since then the rich lady has become generous to poor people around her.
In our day to day life, we can also experience a miracle of the multiplication of bread. But that is if we like our Lord Jesus could feel the suffering of our poor brothers and sisters. If we have compassion like the compassion of our Lord towards our neighbors. Let us then multiply the bread of kindness, generosity, and love with one another.