Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to trust in the providence of a loving and caring God and to hunger and thirst for the Bread of eternal life – the Holy Eucharist. Only God can satisfy our various forms of spiritual hunger.
Scripture lessons:The first reading shows us how God satisfied the hunger of His chosen people in the desert by giving them manna and quail. The restrictions imposed by God for the collecting of manna remind us to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God and to trust that He will always provide for what we need. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 78), refers to manna as “Heavenly bread” and the “bread of angels.” In the second reading, St. Paul advises the Ephesians to satisfy their spiritual hunger by turning away from their former evil ways and leading lives of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Paul reminds us that our acceptance of Jesus as the real source of our life and the nourishment of our souls effects a total transformation in us. Having been nourished by the Bread from Heaven and the word of God, we need to bear witness to Christ by living lives renewed by the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the unique and bold claim: “I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst." Jesus was offering the crowd Bread from Heaven, Bread that nourishes for eternal life, Bread available to people who have faith in Jesus Christ. When Jesus invited those who sought after him for earthly food to be fed, as well, by the Bread of his word or teaching, some accepted the nourishment. But others turned away, disappointed because Jesus’ challenge required a commitment that they were unwilling to make.
Life messages: 1) We need spiritual nourishment from the word of God and from the Holy Eucharist: In the Holy Mass, the Church offers us two types of bread: a) the Bread of Life, contained in God’s Word and b) the Bread of Life, contained in the Holy Eucharist. Let us nourish our souls with this Heavenly manna and carry Jesus to our homes and workplaces, radiating his love, mercy and compassion all around us. But we should not take for granted the Divine generosity that provides these gifts so readily and gratuitously by sharing in the Bread of Life simply as a matter of habit, without showing due attention and proper respect.
2) We need to accept God’s gifts of spiritual life and strength by properly receiving the Holy Eucharist: The Sacrament gives us 1) Courage to carry out God's work in the world, 2) Help to live the life God wants for us, 3) Inspiration to know the will of God in our lives, 4) A deeper Understandingof the holy mystery of Christ's Presence, 5) Encouragement to love others and strengthen the Faith community, 6) Grace to overcome temptation and avoid sin and 7) Joy and Peace of heart, knowing that Christ lives in us and will bring us to God's Heavenly Kingdom. Let us remember that the “Bread of Life” is Jesus Christ himself, not merely human bread. It is Food for our souls giving us a share in God’s life and assurance of eternal life with Him.
OT XVIII [B] (8/2/2015): Ex 16:2-4, 12-15; Eph 4:17, 20-24; Jn 6:24-35
Anecdotes: # 1: A modern Good Samaritan: A few years ago the news media carried the story of a modern-day Good Samaritan who packed his car each day with dozens of homemade sandwiches and traveled to the inner city to distribute them to homeless and otherwise needy people. Eventually, those who benefited from his generosity became familiar with the Samaritan’s customary route and began to congregate on certain corners at a specific time each day to wait for their daily gift of food. Today’s Gospel describes such a scene where people who had been sumptuously fed on the previous day by Jesus came searching for him for another free meal.
# 2: All about food, earthly and Heavenly: In today’s Gospel, Jesus speaks about food. The two biggest sellers in any bookstore, according to Andy Rooney, are the cookbooks and the diet books. The cookbooks tell you how to prepare the food, and the diet books tell you how not to eat any of it. Orson Wells once said, "My doctor has advised me to give up those intimate little dinners for four, unless, of course, there are three other people eating with me." Champion archer Rick McKinney confesses that he regularly eats chocolate chip cookies for breakfast. He refers to "the basic four food groups" as a Big Mac, fries, a shake and a lemon tart. A California scientist has computed that the average human being eats 16 times his or her own weight in an average year, while a horse eats only eight times its weight. This all seems to prove that if you want to lose weight, you should eat like a horse. (Sunshine Magazine). That's a subject most of us know too much about. A recent survey found that 41% of men and 55% of women consider themselves overweight. In one way or another, many of us are obsessed with earthly food. Think what a difference it would make in our lives if we were equally obsessed with Heavenly Food, the Food that Christ gives us.
# 3: Cat to kill mice: Once there was a young Hindu hermit who lived as an ascetic in a forest. He owned nothing except a pair of loincloths. One morning, to his great disappointment, he found that mice had destroyed one of the loincloths. He brought a cat to kill the mice and then a cow to give milk to the cat. Later, as the cows multiplied, he hired a girl from the nearby village to look after the cows and to sell the extra milk in the village. Finally, his ever-growing material needs prompted him to end his religious life, marry the girl and settle down as a farmer in the village. This little story illustrates how easily the never-ceasing hunger for material things can take over our spiritual life. In today’s Gospel, Jesus promises to satisfy our spiritual hunger by offering His Body as our food.
Introduction: Today’s readings challenge us to trust in the providence of a loving and caring God and to hunger and thirst for the Bread of eternal life – the Holy Eucharist. As human beings, we hunger for many things besides food and material possessions. We hunger to be recognized and honored, to love and be loved, to be listened to and to be appreciated, to help, console and encourage people and receive gratitude. But only God can satisfy our various forms of spiritual hunger. St. Augustine said: "O God, You have made us for Yourself, and our hearts are restless until they rest in You.” (Confessions,
The first readingshows us how God satisfied the hunger of His chosen people in the desert by giving them manna and quail. The restrictions imposed by God for the collecting of manna remind us to trust that God will always provide for our needs. Sometimes we have to be stripped of our usual sources of support in order to be reminded that our ultimate sustenance comes only from God, and then to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God. Today’s Responsorial Psalm (Ps 78), refers to manna as “Heavenly bread” and the “bread of angels.”In the second reading, St. Paul advises the Ephesians to satisfy their spiritual hunger by turning away from their former evil ways and leading lives of love, kindness, compassion and forgiveness. Paul reminds us that our acceptance of Jesus as the real source of our life and the nourishment of our souls effects a total transformation in us. Having been fed on the Bread from Heaven, we need to put aside our old selves, steeped in ignorance and self-interest, and put on a new self, created in Christ’s image. Having been nourished by the word of God, we need to bear witness to Christ by living lives renewed by the Holy Spirit. In today’s Gospel, Jesus makes the unique and bold claim: “I am the Bread of Life; whoever comes to Me will never hunger, and whoever believes in Me will never thirst." Jesus was offering the crowd Bread from Heaven, Bread that nourishes for eternal life, Bread available to people who have faith in Jesus Christ. When Jesus invited those who sought after him to be fed spiritually by the bread of his word or teaching, some accepted the nourishment. But others turned away, disappointed because Jesus’ challenge required a commitment that they were unwilling to make.
First reading, Exodus 16:2-4, 12-15:The passage from Exodus describes how the people complained to Moses of the acute shortage of food in the desert and accused him of leading them from Egypt, where food was plentiful, into the desert, “to die of famine.” God heard the complaint of His people and lavished on them “food from heaven” in the form of fleshy quails in the evening and delicious manna in the morning. The restrictions imposed by God for collecting the manna remind us to trust that God will always provide what we need. Sometimes we have to be stripped of our usual sources of support in order to remember that our ultimate sustenance comes only from God, and to acknowledge humbly our total dependence on God. The fact that the Israelites were given bread from Heaven even after their murmuring reminds us that God’s generosity is not dependent on our virtue, but on His Goodness. According to Bible scholars, quails and manna are occasional phenomena in the Sinai desert. Arranging for these gifts to arrive at the moment they were needed to meet the people’s need, however, was God’s work alone, His miracle. The quail might have been migratory birds that often drop down in groups to the Sinai deserts due to exhaustion after their return flight from Europe over the Mediterranean Sea to their autumn habitats. Manna is the secretion of two species of scale insects on the tamarisk shrub during the months of May and June. But it was God’s doing that the fall of manna occurred daily (except Sabbaths), for the 40 unbroken years of their wandering in the desert. As the secretions drop from the shrub’s leaves to the ground, they cool in the night air and become firm. If gathered early before the parching desert sun melts it, the manna provides a tasty, nourishing meal. Bedouins in the northern Sinai call it mann and still use it as a sweetener. The fact that the occasional occurrence of the manna and quail can be explained scientifically does not, in any way, lessen their theological importance in demonstrating God’s love for His people; indeed, the Israelites rightly ascribed these nourishing, timely gifts from the desert to the loving providence of their God.
Second Reading, Ephesians 4:17, 20-24: In the selections from Ephesians which we have read on these past two Sundays, St. Paul showed us how God effected the new unity of God's once separated peoples, the Jews and the Gentiles, by making both Christians. In today’s second reading, St. Paul encourages the Jewish and Gentile Christians to live out the consequences of their unification, by treating each other like members of one family. He also demands of the Gentile Christians of Ephesus radical changes from their pre-Christian way of life. They must a) “put away the old self of their former way of life, corrupted through deceitful desires,” b)“be renewed in the spirit of their minds,” and c) ”put on the new self, created in God's way in righteousness and holiness of truth.” They must put away the old pagan life and put on the new Christian life, just as the catechumens divested themselves of their outer garments to go down into the Baptismal waters and, after emerging, were clothed in Baptismal robes. Here, St. Paul is challenging all baptized believers to personal holiness.
Exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel presents an introduction to Jesus’ famous discourse on the Holy Eucharist in the form of a dialogue between Jesus and the Jews who had gone around the Lake and come to Capernaum searching for him. The people were looking for a repeat performance of their miraculous feeding. In answer to their question about his arrival, Jesus told them that they looked for him for another free meal and that such meals would not satisfy them. Hence, he instructed them to labor for food that would give them eternal life.
Believing is the first condition:Although Jesus identifies himself as "the bread of life" (v. 35), he is not yet speaking about the Sacramental Eucharist in this part of his Eucharistic discourse. Here, the emphasis is placed on the faith-acceptance of the teaching of Jesus. In other words, Jesus states that he is nourishment, first of all, as one who offers us the life-giving words of God about the meaning of our lives. His message only gives life when we accept it and when it leads us from selfishness to selfless and sacrificial service for others. Jesus states that he is the bread of life for the one who "comes" to him and "believes" in him (v. 35). Jesus offered to satisfy the spiritual hunger of the people gathered around him on one condition. They must believe him to be the Messiah, sent with the message that God is a loving, holy, and forgiving Father, and not a punishing judge. Belief in Jesus is not simple intellectual assent, but an authentic, total commitment to Him of loyalty and solidarity. There is no reference yet to eating or drinking his body and blood, which will come later. Here, we are reminded that only a believing reception of the Body and Blood of Jesus will bring us true life.
Demand for a sign from Heaven: In reply to Jesus’ claim that he was the Messiah sent from Heaven to give eternal life to those who believed in him, the Jews demanded a sign from Heaven. Moses, they said, had given a Heavenly sign to their ancestors in the manna rained down on them from Heaven. The Jewish rabbis taught that the Messiah would repeat the miracle of manna and the prophet Jeremiah would reappear and unearth the Ark of the Covenant from its hidden place to show the Jews the original manna kept in the Ark. Jesus corrected their understanding of Exodus 16:15 by stating that it was not Moses but God, Jesus’ Father Who had given, and continued to give, bread from Heaven. Now, Jesus not only gives the Bread of Life (John 6:11, 27), but also is the Bread of Life (John 6:35, 48). The giver and the gift are one and the same. As the Bread of Life from Heaven, Jesus claims that only he can satisfy man’s spiritual hunger. While bodily food helps us to stay alive in this world, spiritual food sustains and develops our supernatural life which will last forever in heaven. Through God's infinite love we are given, in the Blessed Eucharist, the very Author of the gifts of faith and sanctifying grace. Thus, the Eucharist is not a mere "symbol" of Jesus; rather, it is a Sacramental sign of Jesus’ Real Bodily Presence in his glorified risen Body. This Bread of Life -- which is Jesus himself -- gives mankind a new relationship with God, a relationship of trust, obedience and love.
“The source and summit of the Christian Life:" We believe that the Eucharist is "the source and summit of the Christian Life“(Lumen Gentium), because it contains the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Jesus Christ himself. The Eucharist is a Sacrament of love that unites us with Christ who lived, died and rose again to bring us salvation, strengthens and makes holy our relationship with our fellow-Christians, nourishes us with the transforming power of grace and prepares us for the future glory of God's Heavenly banquet.
Life messages: 1) We need spiritual nourishment from the word of God and from the Holy Eucharist: In the Holy Mass, the Church offers us two types of bread: a) the Bread of Life, contained in God’s Word and b) the Bread of Life, contained in the Holy Eucharist. Unfortunately, many of us come to Mass every week to present on the altar only our earthly needs without accepting spiritual nourishment by properly receiving God’s Word and the Holy Eucharist. Let us nourish our souls with this Heavenly manna and carry Jesus to our homes and workplaces, radiating his love, mercy and compassion all around us. It is perhaps the plainness and ordinariness of the consecrated Bread and Wine and their easy availability in our Churches that sometimes prevent some of us from appreciating the great gift of God in the Holy Eucharist. But we should not take for granted the Divine generosity that provides these gifts so readily and gratuitously by sharing in the Bread of Life simply as a matter of habit and without showing due attention and proper respect.
2) Let us gain spiritual life and strength by properly receiving the Holy Eucharist: It gives us 1) Courage to carry out God's work in the world, 2) Help to live the life God wants for us, 3) Inspiration to know the will of God in our lives, 4) A deeper Understanding of the holy mystery of Christ's presence, 5) Encouragement to love others and strengthen the Faith community, 6) Grace to overcome temptation and avoid sin, and 7) Joy and Peace of heart, knowing that Christ lives in us and will bring us to God's Heavenly Kingdom. Hence, we must receive the Holy Eucharist with our whole minds and hearts. Let us never forget that the “Bread of Life” is Jesus Christ himself, not merely human bread. When we pray, "give us this day our daily bread," let us remember that the Holy Eucharist is not simply a "snack," such as we might eat at a party or at lunch. It is food for our souls giving us a share in God’s life.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (firstname.lastname@example.org) and published in the CBCI Website.
Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to become humble instruments in God’s hands by sharing our blessings with our needy brothers and sisters. They also remind us that if our country has been blessed with an abundance of earthly bread or with the technical capabilities to produce such abundance, then these gifts are for sharing with the hungry people and poor countries. Once physical hungers are satisfied, then we are challenged to satisfy the deeper hungers, for love, mercy, forgiveness, companionship, peace and fulfillment.
Scripture lessons: The first reading tells us how the prophet Elisha, by invoking God’s power, fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves. This miracle foreshadowed the gospel account of Jesus' miraculous feeding of the crowd who followed him to hear his words. Today’s psalm gives us the assurance that it is “the hand of the Lord that feeds us,” and that it is God who “answers all our needs.” In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians that Jesus united the Jews and the Gentiles by bringing them together as Christians in one faith and one baptism, and, hence, they have to live together, helping each other by sharing their blessings. Paul urges us to become communities of sharing Christians. The miraculous feeding of the five thousand people by Jesus, using five barley loaves and two fish, as described in today’s gospel, is associated with the Holy Eucharist early in the Church’s tradition. The people immediately interpreted the miracle, giving Jesus two Messianic titles: "The prophet” and "the one who is to come." This miracle teaches us that God works marvels through ordinary people. Elisha’s servant and Jesus’ disciples distributed the bread provided by God through generous people who were willing to share their food with the hungry. Thus, God meets the needs of people through the good will and services provided by members of His community.
Life messages: A challenge to generous sharing: 1) The gospel story teaches that Jesus meets the most basic human need, namely hunger, with generosity and compassion. 2) Today’s readings also tell us that God really cares about His people and that there is enough and more than enough for everybody. Studies show that the world today produces enough food grains to provide every human being on the planet with 3,600 calories a day, not counting such foods as tuber crops, vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits, meats, and fish. Hence, let us pray and work for better social justice in all communities and countries. 3) As Christians we need to commit ourselves to share and to work with God in communicating His compassion to all as the early Christians did. God always blesses those who share their blessings and talents with loving commitment. We can begin our own humble efforts at "sharing" right in our parish by participating in the works of charity done by organizations like St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Knights of Columbus etc. (L/12)
O.T. XVII [B] (July 29): 2 Kings 4:42-44, Eph 4:1-6, John 6:1-15
Anecdote: #1: “No my son, the pigs of my village don’t pray before meals!” Monsignor Arthur Tonne has a funny story on today’s gospel lesson. A village farmer stopped at a restaurant in the nearby town and sat near a group of young fellows who were acting up, shouting at the cook and heckling the waitress. When his meal was set before him the old farmer bowed his head to offer a prayer. One of the smart-alecks thought he would have some fun with the old farmer. So he shouted in a loud voice that could be heard by everyone, “Hey, Pop, does everyone do this where you come from?” Calmly the old man turned towards the lad with an innocent smile and replied in an equally loud voice: “No son, our pigs don’t.” Today’s gospel tells us that, before feeding the five thousand, Jesus took the loaves of bread, gave thanks (to God his Father) and distributed them.
#2: A bag of rice to share: From her personal experience, Mother Teresa relates a story showing how the poor are more generous than the rich because they have experienced hunger and poverty. Learning of a poor Hindu family in Calcutta who had been starving for many days, Mother Theresa visited them and brought a big parcel of rice to the mother. She was surprised to see how the mother divided the rice into two equal portions and went out with one bundle to give it to her Moslem neighbor. When she returned, Mother Theresa asked her why she had done such a generous deed. The woman replied: “My family can manage with half the rice in this bag. My neighbor’s family has several children and they are also starving." Today’s gospel tells the story of a small boy who showed this same kind of generosity. By sharing his small lunch (which consisted of five barley loaves and two dried fish), he became the instrument in Jesus’ working of a miracle that fed thousands.
# 3: “I wish I could be a brother like that:” Paul had received a special pre- Christmas gift from his rich brother. It was a beautiful new car - fully loaded and ready to go. On Christmas Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a street kid was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. "Is this your car, mister?” the kid asked. When he replied that it was and that his brother had given it to him for Christmas, the boy said, "You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn't cost you anything? Free? For nothing? Gosh, I wish..." The boy hesitated, and Paul knew what he was about to say. He had heard it many times over the past few days. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the boy said shocked Paul. ”I wish", the boy said, "I wish I could be a brother like that." We can be a brother like that or a sister like that. All it takes is that we offer ourselves and what we have, to God. All it takes is that we cease to worry about how little we have and begin instead to think about what it is that we can offer to others, as the little boy in today’s gospel story did by sharing his bread and fish with the multitude through Jesus. (“Chicken Soup” series).
Introduction: Today’s readings invite us to become humble instruments in God’s hands by sharing our blessings with our needy brothers and sisters. Miracles can happen through our hands, when we collect and distribute to the needy the food destined for all by our generous God. Today’s readings also remind us that if we have been blessed with an abundance of earthly bread or with the technical capabilities to produce such an abundance, then these gifts are for sharing with the hungry. When physical hungers are satisfied, then we are challenged to satisfy the deeper hungers - for love, mercy, forgiveness, companionship, peace and fulfillment. The first reading tells us how the prophet Elisha, by invoking God’s power, fed one hundred men with twenty barley loaves. This miracle foreshadowed the gospel account of Jesus' miraculous feeding of the crowd who followed him to hear his words. Today’s psalm tells us: “The hand of the Lord feeds us; God answers all our needs.” In the second reading, St. Paul reminds the Ephesians that Jesus united the Jews and the Gentiles, bringing them together as Christians in one faith and one baptism. Hence, he urges them to keep this unity intact as one body and one spirit by living as true Christians, “bearing with one another through love,” in humility, gentleness, patience and peace. If we become such a community, nobody will go hungry, and God will meet the needs of people through the services provided by members of our community. The miraculous feeding of the five thousand people by Jesus, with five barley loaves and two fish, as described in today’s gospel, is associated in Church tradition with the Holy Eucharist. John’s version of the miracle clearly heightens the Eucharistic allusions when we read it along with the miraculous feeding of 100 men by the prophet Elisha in today’s first reading. But unlike Elisha, Jesus himself assumed the divine role, feeding the people with eschatological plenty. The reaction of the people was immediate and unanimous; they interpreted the miracle as a messianic sign and gave Jesus two Messianic titles: "The prophet” and "the one who is to come." This miracle teaches us that God works marvels through ordinary people. Elisha’s servant and Jesus’ disciples distributed the bread, provided by God. Thus, God meets the needs of the people through the services provided by the members of His community.
First reading, 2 Kings 4:42-44: The first reading, taken from the Second Book of Kings, prepares us for today’s gospel which describes the miraculous feeding of more than five thousand people by Jesus using a boy’s gift of five barley loaves and two dried fish. Acting through the prophet Elisha, God fed about 100 people with 20 barley loaves. Both incidents tell us that God works marvels through ordinary people and meets the needs of people through the services provided by members of the community. The Fathers of the Church recognized this miraculous feeding of Elisha as a type of, and prelude for, Jesus’ feeding of the multitudes in today’s gospel, an event that itself foreshadowed his gift of Himself in the Eucharist which continues to nourish believers. The paired readings challenge the Church to continue Elisha’s and Jesus’ tradition by becoming, with His power, a provider and multiplier of bread for the poor.
Second Reading, Ephesians 4:1-6: St. Paul, in prison, reminds the Ephesians that Jesus united the Jews and the Gentiles, bringing them together as Christians in one faith and one baptism. Hence, he advises them to keep this unity intact as one body and one spirit by living as true Christians “bearing with one another in love,” with humility, gentleness, patience and peace. At present, we are the community that Paul describes. We are the ones called to feed the hungry today. As members of the body of Christ, we need to remember that miracles can happen through our prayers, our donations and our hands when we help Him to distribute to the hungry the food destined for all by our generous God.
Exegesis: The context: Jesus’ withdrawals into the wilderness were probably intended to provide periods of rest and reflection for Jesus and his disciples, and a time for him to teach them privately. In addition, withdrawal might have allowed them to avoid danger from those hostile to him, particularly after the execution of John the Baptist. Today’s gospel shows us one such incident, Here, we see Jesus trying, in vain, to withdraw with his apostles from the crowds at Capernaum by sailing to the other side of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus stepped ashore near a remote village called Bethsaida Julius, where the River Jordan flows into the north end of the Sea of Galilee, and faced a large crowd of people who had pursued him around the Sea on foot. His immediate reaction was one of deep compassion. Near the place where they had landed, there was a small grassy plain, and there he began to heal the sick among them and to teach them at length. This was the scene of the miraculous feeding of the five thousand as described in today’s gospel.
A great miracle before a multitude: The miracle of the feeding of the 5,000 is found in all four gospels, although the context and emphasis vary. This is the only miracle, other than the resurrection, that is told in all the gospels, a fact that speaks of its importance to the early Church. Compare Mark 6:35-44 with Matthew 14:13-21, Luke 9:12-17, and John 6:1-14. Matthew says that there were about 5,000 men, not including women and children. This miraculous feeding in the desert had precedents: Moses, Elijah and Elisha had fed people without resources. The present miracle resembles particularly the one performed by Elisha in 2 Kings 4:42-44. In both cases, unlike the manna in the desert, there were leftovers, for everyone there had had enough and more than enough. This miracle, then, is greater than the manna of the exodus. The Gospel story should be treated as a witness to the power of God and an implicit declaration of Jesus’ divinity. It also shows how, to this day, Jesus empowers his disciples to continue his works of compassion. We may regard the incident both as a miracle of divine providence and also as a messianic sign in which Jesus multiplied loaves and fish in order to feed his hungry listeners. The lesson for every Christian is that, no matter how impossible his or her assignments may seem, with divine help they can be done because "nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37).
A messianic sign or a miracle of generous sharing? The traditional teaching of the Church is that Jesus literally multiplied the bread and fish to feed his hungry listeners. C. S. Lewis, in his book Miracles, says that this is simply God doing in microcosm what God does all of the time in macrocosm. At the beginning of this century in his classic book, The Quest for the Historical Jesus, Schweitzer suggested that what we have here is a "sacrament" rather than a full meal. All the people received was the merest crumb of food, and yet, somehow, with Jesus present among them, it was enough. That, however, does not explain the baskets full of leftovers from the five loaves and two fish. A few bible scholars even suggest that the "miracle" may be interpreted also as Jesus’ success in getting a group of selfish people to share their personal provisions with others. According to this interpretation, it appears strange and unnatural that the crowd had made this nine-mile long expedition to such a desolate village without taking anything to eat. When people set out on a journey, they usually took their food with them in a small basket called a kophinah or in a bigger wicker basket. But if they had done so in this case, each one might have been unwilling to share what he had brought with others. If such were the case, Jesus might have deliberately accepted the five loaves and fish from the little boy in order to set a good example for the crowd. Moved by this example of generosity, the crowd might have done the same: thus, there could have been enough for all. This view was propounded by the famous preacher-novelist Lloyd C. Douglas, author of The Robe. This rather fanciful explanation may still be considered a “miracle”: it might show that how the example of the boy responding to Jesus “miraculously” turned a crowd of selfish men and women into a fellowship of generous sharers. It does, however, militate against the Divinity of Jesus, True God and True Man. For it is the literal interpretation of the miracle which makes the miracle a messianic sign with Eucharistic reference, points to the Divinity of Christ and offers an example of God’s love for us, expressed in superabundant generosity.
A symbol of the Eucharist: No Bible scholar doubts that all six bread miracles in the gospels are about the Eucharist. The multiplication of the loaves is the only miracle from Jesus’ public ministry narrated in all four Gospels with Eucharistic overtones. The early Christian community saw this event as anticipating the Eucharist. John uses this story in his gospel to introduce Jesus’ profound and extended reflection on the Eucharist and the Bread of Life. The Cycle B lectionary has selected portions from John chapter 6 for five Sundays to remind us of Jesus’ teaching on the Eucharist. The Eucharistic coloring of the multiplication of bread is clear in Jesus' blessing, breaking, and giving the loaves. Thus, the miracle itself becomes a symbol of the Eucharist, the sacrament of unity. The sharing of the broken bread is a sign of a community that is expected to share and provide in abundance for the needs of its members. Matthew invites us to see this miracle as a type or symbol explaining the sacrament's meaning. Clearly the account suggests the early Christian rite of the breaking of the bread, celebrated daily (Acts 2), rather than the covenant-sacrifice meal, or the annual Jewish Passover celebration, or the yearly Christian Paschal celebration. This daily breaking of the bread also had eschatological associations: it was an anticipation of the messianic banquet. The Church's Eucharist today combines both the sacrificial and the eschatological associations. In the recent past, emphasis has been placed more on the sacrificial than on the eschatological aspect, but the imbalance is now being redressed.
Life messages: #1: "You give them something to eat." The gospel story teaches that Jesus meets the most basic human need, hunger, with generosity and compassion. Today’s readings also tell us that God really cares about His people and that there is enough and more than enough for everybody. Studies show that the world today produces enough food grains to provide every human being on the planet with 3,600 calories a day, not counting such foods as tuber crops, vegetables, beans, nuts, fruits, meats, and fish. Over the past twenty five years, food production has exceeded world population growth by about 16%. This means that there is no good reason for any human being in today's world to go hungry. But even in a rich country like U.S.A., one child out of five grows up in poverty, three million people are homeless and 4000 unborn babies are aborted every day. “The problem in feeding the world’s hungry population lies with our political lack of will, our economic system biased in favor of the affluent, our militarism, and our tendency to blame the victims of social tragedies such as famine. We all share responsibility for the fact that populations are undernourished. Therefore, it is necessary to arouse a sense of responsibility in individuals, especially among those more blessed with this world’s goods.” (Pope John XXIII, Mater et Magistra (1961) 157-58).
#2: We need to commit ourselves to share with others, and to work with God in communicating His compassion. It is too easy to blame God, too easy to blame governments, too easy see these things as other people's problems. They are also our problems. That is the meaning of the Eucharist we celebrate here today. In other words, as Christians we need to commit ourselves to share what we have with others, and to work with God in communicating his compassion to all. God is a caring Father and He wants our co-operation to be part of His caring for all of us, His children. That’s what the early Christians did, generously sharing what they had with the needy. They were convinced that everything they needed to experience a fulfilling life was already there, in the gifts and talents of the people around them. People of our time need to be encouraged to share, even when they think they have nothing to offer. Whatever we offer through Jesus will have a life-giving effect in those who receive it. We are shown two attitudes in the Gospel story: that of Philip and that of Andrew (John 6:7-9). Philip said, in effect: “The situation is hopeless; nothing can be done.” But Andrew’s attitude was: “I’ll see what I can do; and I will trust Jesus to do the rest.” Let us have Andrew’s attitude.
#3: God blesses those who share their talents, with loving commitment. This is illustrated by Mother Teresa who went to serve the slum dwellers of Calcutta with just twenty cents in her pocket. When she died forty-nine years later, God had turned those original twenty cents into eighty schools, three hundred mobile dispensaries, seventy leprosy clinics, thirty homes for the dying, thirty homes for abandoned children and forty thousand volunteers from all over the world to help her. We can begin our own humble efforts at "sharing" right in our parish by participating in the works of charity done by organizations like the St. Vincent DePaul Society, the Knights of Columbus and so many other volunteer groups. We may say, “I do not have enough money or talent to make any difference”. But we need to remember that the small boy in the story had only five barley loaves and two dried fish. The Bible guarantees that every believer has at least one gift from the Holy Spirit. This is our one “tiny fish”. Perhaps our “fish” is not money, but a talent or an ability that God has given us. We all have something. If you have never trusted God with your time, or your talent, or your treasure...all your resources...this is the time to start. Let us offer ourselves and whatever we have to God saying, “Here is what I am and what I have Lord; use me; use it.” And He will bless us and bless our offering, amplifying it beyond our expectations. When we give what we have to God, and we ask Him to bless it, it is then the miracle happens. We, too, can perform wonders in our own time and place, by practicing the four "Eucharistic verbs” of Jesus: Take humbly and generously what God gives us, bless it by offering it to others in God’s love, break it off from our own needs and interests for the sake of others, give it away with joy-filled gratitude to God who has blessed us with so much.
Prepared by Fr. Antony Kadavil (email@example.com) and published in the CBCI Website.
Introduction: Today’s readings explain how God, like a good shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them. They also challenge us to use our God-given authority in the family, in the Church and in society, with fidelity and responsibility. Today, pastoral ministry includes not only the pastoral care given by those named or ordained as “pastors” but the loving service given by all Christians who follow different callings to serve and lead others.
Scripture lessons: In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah (sixth century B.C.), thunders against Israel's careless leaders - the king, some priests and some court prophets – because they have shown no concern for the poor. The prophet also foretells the rise of a good, new shepherd in the family line of David. Then he consoles the Israelites enslaved in Babylon, by assuring them that God will lead them back to their original pasture in Israel. Today’s Good Shepherd Psalm (Ps 23) affirms David’s faith and trust in God, the “Good Shepherd.” The second reading introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both the Jews and the Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, reconciled all of us with His Father by offering himself on the cross. Paul also speaks about another reconciliation between the Jews and the Gentiles, brought about by Jesus who has accepted both into the same Christian brotherhood. The reading from the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus as the good shepherd fulfilling God’s promise given through his prophet Jeremiah in the first reading. Here we see Jesus attending to his weary apostles, who have just returned from their first preaching mission, while at the same time expressing his concern for the people who, like “sheep without a shepherd," have gathered to meet him in the wilderness.
Life messages: 1) We need God’s grace to become good shepherds: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. We should allow God the opportunity to speak to us and recharge us with spiritual energy and strength by setting aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to Him. He speaks to us powerfully when we spend some time every day reading the Bible devoutly and meditating on the message God gives us. We receive strength from God to do our share of the shepherd’s preaching and healing ministry by praying to Him individually, in the family and as a community, in the parish Church participating in the Eucharistic celebration.
2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. Christians must also display the compassion of Jesus by meeting the social and material needs of others by our works of charity as individual Christians and as a parish community.
OT XVI SUNDAY (July 19) Jer 23:1-6, Eph 2:13-18, Mk 6:30-34)
Anecdote: # 1:“Altar of the Chair:” Today’s Gospel presents Jesus as the good shepherd for people who were like sheep without shepherd. At St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome, the role of Pope as a teaching shepherd is depicted very powerfully in art. At the very back of the basilica, there is one of the most famous pieces in art history, done by the great sculptor Bernini. It’s called the “Altar of the Chair,” and it was so beautiful and influential that art historians say it was the start of the baroque era. It was Pope Alexander VII who commissioned Bernini to build a sumptuous monument which would give prominence to the ancient wooden chair believed to have been used by St. Peter. Bernini built a throne in gilded bronze richly ornamented with bas-reliefs, in which the chair was enclosed: two pieces of furniture, one within the other. At the top of the altar, there is the brilliant translucent image of the Holy Spirit in the form of a dove surrounded by angels. The Holy Spirit is descending upon a huge bronze chair which houses what in the 16th century was believed to be the actual chair on which St. Peter sat to teach the people of Rome. Peter’s chair is a symbol of the teaching authority of the Church and particularly of the Popes, the successors of St. Peter, who are Christ’s vicars on earth. The most formal teachings of the Church are called “ex cathedra,” meaning literally “from the chair.” Underneath the chair there are four bishops who are all famous teaching saints in the early Church—Athanasius, John Chrysostom, Augustine, and Ambrose—who are depicted referring to and spiritually upholding the teaching authority of the Church and papacy. But the element that is most relevant to today’s Scriptures is found sculpted into the backrest of the Chair. It’s a depiction of Peter feeding Christ’s sheep. It’s a reference to the end of St. John’s Gospel, when Jesus asked Peter three times, “Simon, son of John, do you love me?” Peter replied that he did. And Jesus responded, “Feed my lambs,” “tend my sheep,” and “feed my sheep.” Peter’s obedience in caring for Christ’s sheep is seen above all, therefore, in his TEACHING of Christ’s truth. Every year on February 22, the Church celebrates the feast of the Chair of St. Peter, to commemorate St. Peter's teaching in Rome.
# 2: The hour of a mid-week prayer service in a little church: Michael Faraday was a 19th century British physicist and chemist, best known for his discoveries of electromagnetic induction (the principle behind the electric transformer and generator) and of the laws of electrolysis. His biggest breakthrough in electricity was his invention of the electric motor. This great scientist once addressed convocation of scientists. For an hour he held the audience spellbound with his lecture on the electromagnetic induction, electrolysis, electric motor and their future applications. After he had finished, he received a thundering ovation. The Prince of Wales, later King Edward VII, stood to congratulate him. The applause thundered again. Just as quickly, a deadened silence pervaded the audience. Faraday had left. It was the hour of a mid-week prayer service in a little church of which he was a member. Do we have a similar commitment? Like Faraday, have we pledged our allegiances to a Power that outlasts the short-lived fads and governments of this world? One of the reasons we gather for worship each week is for the refreshment of our spirits, the recharging of our spiritual; batteries. We need to shut the world out and focus our attention on God's presence in our lives. Jesus knew the value of getting away to a quiet place. With our families, would we put into practice what the Wall Street Journal suggested a generation ago? "What America needs ... is a revival of piety - the piety of our fathers.” Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus takes his worn-out disciples to a lonely place for rest and refreshment.
# 3: Expectant waiting for dear ones: A story from the life of Mother Teresa shows her love for lonely and unwanted people, the "sheep without a shepherd," who, while materially well-off, are sometimes "the poorest of the poor." On one occasion, she visited a well-run nursing home where good food, medical care and other facilities were offered to the elderly. As she moved among the old people, she noticed that none of them smiled unless she touched them and smiled at them first. She also noticed that many of them kept glancing expectantly towards the door while listening to her. When she asked one of the nurses why this was so, she was told: “They are looking for a visit from someone related to them. But, except for an occasional visit, birthday gift or a get-well card, this never happens." Jesus invites us, in today’s Gospel, to show concern, mercy and compassion for such sheep without a shepherd.
Introduction: Today’s readings explain how God, like a Good Shepherd, redeems His people and provides for them. They also challenge us to use our God-given authority in the family, in the Church and in society, with fidelity and responsibility. Today “pastoral” ministry includes not only the pastoral care given by those named or ordained as “pastors” but the loving service given by many others who follow different callings to serve and lead others. In the first reading, the prophet Jeremiah (sixth century B.C.), thunders against Israel's careless leaders - the king, some priests and some court prophets – because they have shown no concern for the poor. The prophet also foretells the rise of a good, new shepherd in the family line of David. Then he consoles the Israelites enslaved in Babylon, by assuring them that God will lead them back to their original pasture in Israel. Today’s Good Shepherd Psalm (Ps 23) affirms David’s faith and trust in God, the Good Shepherd.” The second reading introduces Jesus as the shepherd of both Jews and Gentiles and explains how Jesus, the good shepherd, reconciled all of us with His Father by offering himself on the cross. Paul also speaks about another reconciliation, that between the Jews and the Gentiles, brought about by Jesus who accepted both into the same Christian brotherhood. The reading from the Gospel of Mark presents Jesus as the good shepherd fulfilling God’s promise given through his prophet Jeremiah in the first reading. Here we see Jesus attending to his weary apostles, who have just returned from their first preaching mission, while at the same time expressing his concern for the people who, like “sheep without a shepherd," have gathered to meet him in the wilderness.
First reading, Jeremiah 23:1-6: The prophet Jeremiah lived from about 650 BC to perhaps 580 B.C. Most of his work was in Judah's capital, Jerusalem. He tried to keep the people and several kings faithful to God amidst an atmosphere of political intrigue and backstabbing. Jeremiah was blunt about what was right and what was not. He suffered at the hands of the powerful because of his outspokenness. At the time of this prophecy, a good king in Judah had just been replaced by a king who allied Judah to Egypt. Jeremiah was sent by God to rage against this policy, reminding the people and the King that God's people should trust in God, not in alliances with pagan nations. Some flattering "prophets" of the court backed the King and criticized Jeremiah. But Jeremiah remained a vigorous, courageous, outspoken man. Today we'd say Jeremiah had fire in his belly. Here he thunders on behalf of a God outraged at the powerful people's neglect of their responsibility to the poor. "I gave you the privileges of a shepherd, you mislead and scatter the flock, I'm about to replace you, and my people will be restored!" Jeremiah assured his audience that Yahweh would give them a "new shepherd," a new leader who would exercise Yahweh's care and concern for His people. Jesus fulfills the prophecy of the good shepherd God promised through Jeremiah – the one who would shepherd the sheep “so that they need no longer fear and tremble,” and the Davidic king who would do what was just and right in the land. Jeremiah’s prophetic denunciation of faithless servants in the Old Testament is applicable also to our own time. All of us who exercise responsibility in various ministries in the Church, in family life and in society, are called to imitate God’s diligent, effective caring by bringing people together, leading them and showing selfless concern for our subjects rather than taking personal advantage of them.
Second Reading, Ephesians 2:13-18: In this reading, Paul celebrates the fulfillment of Jeremiah’s prophecy (first reading) of a future shepherd who would gather the dispersed and the scattered into one people of God. This passage explains how Christ has brought about reconciliation between ancient enemies, the Jews and the Gentiles. Paul says that the Jews were "near" and the Gentiles "far off." But by becoming Christians, those Jews, who had enjoyed God's favor for so many generations, have now accepted Christ as the Messiah. The converted Gentiles had long been estranged from God. But they, too, have now accepted Christ as their Lord and Savior. Hence, as Christians, the Jewish Christians and the Gentile Christians are now no more enemies but brothers and sisters. The Law of Moses “with its commandments and legal claims" served to separate the Jews who kept it from the Gentiles who didn't know of it and didn't bother. Against the attempts by some Jewish Christians to impose the Mosaic Law on Gentile converts, Paul affirms that the Law can no longer separate God's single people into factions.
Exegesis: The context: Today’s Gospel passage presents the sympathetic and merciful heart of Jesus who lovingly invites his apostles to a desolate place for some rest. Jesus had sent his apostles on their first mission, which was one of healing, teaching and preaching. When they returned, they were no doubt exhilarated by the experience. They had witnessed at first hand, the power of God's Word. Nonetheless, they were hungry, exhausted, and in need of rest, both physical and spiritual. In fact, Jesus was eager to hear about their missionary adventures as they proudly shared their experiences. But Jesus, too, was in need of a break from the crowds who were constantly pressing on him, demanding his attention and healing. Hence, he led the Apostles by boat to a “deserted place” on the other side of the Lake for a period of rest and sharing.
2) “Sheep without shepherd:” But when they came ashore there was a large crowd waiting for them. Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for those people who were “sheep without a shepherd.” Here the reference to the shepherd was probably to religious leaders, because at this time the Jews were an occupied people and the real political power was in the hands of the Romans. This brief description, “sheep without a shepherd,” is also dense with Biblical allusions. Like the people of Israel, the crowds were in the desert where they would receive not only miraculous food (next Sunday’s Gospel), but guidance and instruction, just as the Torah had been given in the desert of Sinai. “Sheep without s shepherd” will perish because a) they cannot find their way and will probably end up eaten by a wolf or other carnivores b) they cannot find pasture and food and c) they have no defense against the dangers which threaten them. Jesus' first act with these shepherd-less sheep was to teach them [v. 34] and then to feed them [vv. 35-40] and finally to protect his closest disciples who were also His sheep from the storm [vv. 45-52]. This text affirms Jesus’ extraordinary availability and his compassion for the needy. It teaches us that a Christian should be ready to sacrifice his time and even his rest in the service of the Gospel.
Life messages: 1) Christians must be people of prayer and action: The Christian life is a continuous passage from the presence of God to the presence of people and back again. Prayer is essentially listening to God and talking to Him. One of our main problems is that we do not truly allow God the opportunity to speak to us. We also do not know how to "be still and to listen." Hence, we are often in danger of refusing to allow God to recharge us with spiritual energy and strength. In addition, we do not set aside enough time for Him to speak to us and for us to speak to God. How can we shoulder life's burdens if we have no contact with the Lord of Life? How can we do God's work unless we rely on God's strength? And how can we receive that strength unless we pray to him individually, in the family and as a parish community in the Church and receive His grace by participating in the Holy Mass and through the reception of the Sacraments? However, we must never seek God's fellowship in order to avoid the fellowship of men but always in order to prepare for it. From our reflection on today’s Gospel, let us remind ourselves that the Christian life consists of meeting with God in the secret place so that we may serve people more effectively in the market place.
2) The Church has the double responsibility of teaching and feeding: People today find it difficult to balance those two aspects of the Christian life. Some apparently believe that the social ministry of the Church is all that is needed to make Christ present in the world. Others seem to believe that the Church's major concern should be preaching the Gospel, rather than feeding the hungry and healing the sick. The Church's duty, so the argument goes, is to spread the Gospel and provide for public worship. Both views are one-sided. There can be no true Christianity without the proclamation of the Gospel. Teaching the Word of God is essential to a Christian community. But that is only half of the story. Christians must also display the same compassion for the suffering that Jesus exhibited by meeting the social and material needs of others - even those who are not members of our Church.
3) The Church needs ideal pastors: The pastor must be a person of compassion. He must be able to feel deeply the suffering of others, to understand why they fear and tremble. The pastors are also called to lead and “govern wisely” (Jer 23:5), living the teaching they communicate. They are to guide people in right paths and are to be concerned about what is right and just. Their pastoral care should be involved and peaceful care and guidance. There are very many people searching for truth today, people hungering for instruction, good people who are looking for direction. They may be parents who are sick with grief over the future of a troubled child; a man stripped of his dignity by unemployment; a woman facing a pregnancy alone; elderly people who feel the diminishing surge of life in their bodies; people who are angry and confused because they have lost confidence in their leaders, whether political or religious. They are people who are looking for answers and for meaning. They are like sheep without a shepherd. They all need ideal pastors filled with the spirit of Christ the “Good Shepherd.”
Introduction: Today’s readings remind us of our Divine adoption as God's children and of our call to preach the Good News of Jesus by bearing witness to God’s love, mercy and salvation as revealed through Jesus. "God chose us in Christ before the foundation of the world." (Ephesians 1: 4).
Scripture lessons: The first reading warns us that our witnessing mission will be rejected, as happened to the Old Testament prophets like Amos. He was ordered by Amaziah, the angry chief priest serving in the Northern Kingdom of Israel at Bethel, to take his prophesying back to his own country, the Southern Kingdom of Judah. Amos defended his prophetic role with courage, clarifying that it was not his choice but his God’s choice to elevate him from a shepherd and tree-dresser to a prophet. Like Amos, each one of us is chosen by God through the mystery of Divine adoption in Jesus, to become a missionary and to preach the “Good News,” mainly by Christian witnessing.
In the second reading, St. Paul explains the blessings that we have received through our Baptism and the responsibility we have to become missionaries. Then Paul reveals the Divine secret that it had been God’s eternal plan to extend salvation, through Jesus, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Hence, the Jewish and the Gentile Christians need to love, help and respect one another and thus proclaim Jesus, giving true witness by their lives.
In today’s Gospel (Mark 6:1-13), the evangelist tells the story of Jesus' commissioning of the twelve apostles to preach the “Good News” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation and salvation through Jesus. Just as God sent the prophet Amos to preach repentance to ancient Israel and St. Paul to preach the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles, so Jesus sends forth his followers to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom and to bring healing to those who need it most. Today’s Gospel reports the instruction Jesus gave his disciples for their first mission. They should be walking illustrations of God’s love and providence in action. They should preach repentance -- a change of heart and a change of action taking people from a self-centered life to a God-centered life.
Life Messages: # 1: We too have a witnessing mission: We are called to be witnessing disciples and evangelizing apostles. As witnessing disciples, we need to follow Jesus, imitate him, reflect him and radiate him. As apostles, we need to evangelize the world by sharing with others our experience of God and His Son, Jesus, proclaiming the Gospel and the salvation promised by Jesus through our transparent Christian lives and radiating the love, mercy, forgiveness, spirit of humble service and concern of Jesus to the people around us.
2) We also have a liberating mission, helping free people from the demons of nicotine, alcohol, drugs, gambling, pornography, promiscuous sex, hatred, jealousy, racial prejudice and consumerism. We need the help of Jesus to liberate us and others from these things.
OT XV [B] SUNDAY (July 12) (Am 7:12-15, Eph 1:3-14, Mk 6:7-13)
Anecdote: # 1: Gideon’s army and Jesus’ fishermen: An angel spoke directly to Gideon (Judges 6: 11-25), the fourth judge of the Israelites in the 12th century B.C. This two-way conversation is recorded in detail and comprises the commissioning of Gideon to be a deliverer and “Judge” of God's people. The angel of the Lord came to meet Gideon under the oak tree at Ophrah with specific instructions for a raid on the Midianites who were the controlling force in the land, fielding a unique and fast-moving camel battalion. They forcefully reaped all the grain of the Israelites during the harvest season for seven years. Gideon protested that his clan, Manasseh, was the weakest in the nation. But God assured Gideon, “I will be with you, and you shall strike down the Midianites, every one of them" (v 16). Gideon asked for a sign from God and God graciously gave it to convince Gideon that it was God who was sending him to fight, and it was God who would be fighting for him. In Judges 7:2-11 God gave additional instruction to Gideon and asked him to send home those soldiers who were afraid to fight a strong and big army. That reduced the number of soldiers in Gideon’s army from 32,000 to 10,000. But it was still too many in God’s sight. God further instructed Gideon to conduct a water-drinking test in the river. The test eliminated 9700 more soldiers, leaving behind only 300 soldiers of God’s selection. The story of Gideon's calling was about strategy: "Go in My strength." The Midianites had a force of 135,000 men with them when they invaded Israel in the 8th harvest season. But Gideon trusted in the strength of the Lord and defeated and destroyed the mighty army of the Midianites by his surprise midnight attack. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus selected and delegated twelve ordinary men for his preaching and healing ministry.
# 2: “Let people hear it”: Fritz Kreisler (1875-1962), the world-famous violinist, earned a fortune with his concerts and compositions, but he generously gave most of it away. So, when he discovered an exquisite violin on one of his trips, he wasn’t able to buy it. Later, having raised enough money to meet the asking price, he returned to the seller, hoping to purchase that beautiful instrument. But to his great dismay it had been sold to a collector. Kreisler made his way to the new owner’s home and offered to buy the violin. The collector said it had become his prized possession and he would not sell it. Keenly disappointed, Kreisler was about to leave when he had an idea. "Could I play the instrument once before it is consigned to silence?" he asked. Permission was granted, and the great virtuoso filled the room with such heart-moving music that the collector’s emotions were deeply stirred. "I have no right to keep this violin to myself," he exclaimed. "It’s yours, Mr. Kreisler. Take it into the world, and let people hear it." Jesus gives us the same instruction the collector gave Kreisler when He shares with us the mission He gives the Apostles today in the Gospel.
Introduction: Today’s readings remind us of our Divine Adoption as God's children and of our call to preach the Good News of Jesus by bearing witness to God’s love, mercy and salvation as revealed through Jesus. The first reading warns us that our witnessing mission will be rejected, as happened to the Old Testament prophets like Amos. Amos condemned the cozy lifestyle of priests who supported the king and the rich and ignored the oppression of the poor. The angry chief priest, Amaziah of Bethel in the Northern Kingdom of Israel, told Amos to take his prophesying back to his own country, the Southern Kingdom of Judah, because they did not want to listen to his prophecy in Bethel. Amos defended his prophetic role with courage, clarifying that it was not his choice but his God’s choice to elevate him from a shepherd and tree dresser to a prophet. Like Amos, each one of us is chosen by God through the mystery of Divine adoption in Jesus to become missionaries and to preach the “Good News” by the witness of our Christian lives. The Psalmist sings in today's Responsorial Psalm that in Jesus alone, "Kindness and truth shall meet; justice and peace shall kiss. Truth shall spring out of the earth, and justice shall look down from Heaven" (Psalm 85: 11-12). In the second reading, St. Paul explains the blessings that we have received through our Baptism and the responsibility we have to become missionaries. Through Christ, God has chosen us to be holy, made us the adopted brothers and sisters of His Son, Jesus, forgiven our sins, given us a right relationship with God, and enabled us to understand His plan of salvation. Then Paul reveals the Divine secret that it had been God’s eternal plan to extend salvation, through Jesus, first to the Jews and then to the Gentiles. Hence, the Jewish and the Gentile Christians needed to love, help and respect one another and thus proclaim Jesus by the witness of their lives. In today’s Gospel (Mark 6:1-13), the evangelist tells the story of Jesus' commissioning of the twelve apostles for their first missionary journey. They are to preach the “Good News” of repentance, forgiveness of sins, liberation and salvation through Jesus. Just as God sent the prophet Amos to preach repentance to ancient Israel and St. Paul to preach the Good News of salvation to the Gentiles, so Jesus sends forth his followers to proclaim the Good News of God’s Kingdom and to bring healing to those who need it most.
The first reading, Amos 7:12-15: This first reading shows us, in the rejection of an Old Testament prophet, what would happen to Jesus and his apostles. For a long time, the territory we call the Holy Land had been divided between a northern kingdom called Israel and a southern kingdom known as Judah. The city of Jerusalem was in Judah. In the northern kingdom, at Bethel, there was a very ancient shrine with several priests. These Bethel priests sponsored the rich people and acted as cronies of King Jeroboam. Amos the prophet was sent by God to these priests with the demand that they speak against the current neglect and exploitation of the poor by the powerful. Amos had come from Tekoa in the southern kingdom of Judah to Bethel in the northern kingdom of Israel, to pronounce God’s judgment on Israel and its King, Jeroboam. As a prophet, Amos foretold the overthrow of the throne and shrine by the hand of God. Amaziah who was the high priest told him that the King was angry with him and he was seeking to kill him. It would be better for Amos to look for his own safety. Amos tells Amaziah that in the eyes of God the Temple that Amaziah served was not legitimate as it had been established by the royal household. But the furious chief priest of Bethel, Amaziah, told Amos to get out and go south to Judah. Amos explained that he was not a professional prophet; he was a shepherd and dresser of sycamores. He had become a prophet only because God had sent him to deliver a message to Israel and its King. We are invited to see the mission of the twelve apostles and our mission as Christians as parallel to the mission of Amos.
The second reading, Ephesians 1:3-10: This reading, taken from the letter to the Ephesians, is a prayer praising God for what God has accomplished in Jesus. In other words, Paul offers us the exercise of counting our blessings in the form of a benediction and thanksgiving in which we point to God as the Source of our blessings, in and through Jesus’ life, death and Resurrection. Through Christ, God has given us a clear purpose in life—to praise and to serve God and one another—with the Holy Spirit as a Helper in carrying out the task. Paul advises the Ephesians to count their blessings instead of focusing excessively on their inadequacies and deficiencies. In this prayer, Paul also reveals a Divine secret to the Jewish Christians. It had not been God’s plan to keep the Jews as His Chosen People exclusively. God's plan had always been to include the Gentiles eventually. And that is what Jesus did by sending Paul to preach to the Gentiles. Hence, the Jewish and the Gentile Christians were to respect and help each other as both were now adopted children of God, brothers and sisters of Jesus.
Exegetical notes: 1) The context: Jesus, like the prophets before Him, was rejected by the people of his hometown as he corrected them for their prejudice. But instead of getting discouraged, Jesus went with his disciples to the neighboring towns and villages with his preaching and healing ministry. He prepared his disciples to go ahead of him to various places to announce his coming and to preach the Good News of the salvation coming through their master, Jesus. Today’s Gospel gives us the instruction Jesus gave his disciples for their first mission.
2) Travelers’ kit in Palestine: In Jesus' time, the Jews of Palestine ordinarily wore five articles of clothing. The innermost garment was called the tunic; and the outer garment was used as a cloak by day and as a blanket by night. Next, there was a girdle, which was worn over the tunic and cloak. The skirts of the tunic could be hitched up under the girdle for work or any strenuous activity. A headdress was also worn in order to protect the neck, the cheekbones, and the eyes from the heat and glare of the sun. Finally, the Jews wore sandals made of leather, wood or matted grass. They also carried a wicker basket within which was an ordinary traveler's bag made of kid's skin. The Jewish priests and devotees, who were often very covetous, carried these bags supposedly to collect contributions. No wonder, people labeled them "pious robbers” with their booty growing from village to village.
3) The meaning of Jesus’ instructions: Why did Jesus send the Apostles in pairs? Because according to Jewish law, two witnesses were needed to pronounce a truth. Going two by two carries with it the authority of official witnesses. By his instructions, it is clear that Jesus meant that his disciples should take no supplies for the road but simply trust in God for their requirements. God, the Provider, would open the hearts of believers to take care of the needs of the disciples. Jesus’ instructions also suggest that his disciples should not be like the acquisitive priests of the day, who were interested only in gaining riches. Instead, the disciples of Jesus must be concerned with "giving" rather than “getting." They should be walking examples of God’s love and providence. By doing so, they would also have the maximum of freedom and the minimum of burdens in their preaching and healing ministry. Jesus wanted his apostles to be rich in all the things which really mattered, so that they might enrich those who came into contact with them. Statistics tell us that most people who come to join a Church do so because a friend or relative brought them. So the best advertisement for any Church is the number of the faithful – men, women, and children, whose daily lives show forth some of the radiance of the Gospel.
3) "Shake off the dust from your feet:" Jesus knew that when his disciples went to any place to evangelize, a family or house would take them in, welcome them and give them what they needed because hospitality was an important religious tradition in Palestine. By His stern instruction, Jesus seems to be saying, “If people refuse to listen to you or to show you hospitality, the only thing you can do is to treat them as an orthodox Jew would treat a Gentile or a pagan.” The Rabbinic law stated that the dust of a Gentile country was defiled, so that when a Jew entered Palestine from another country, he had to shake off every particle of the unclean land’s dust from his clothing and sandals.
4) Convey the Good News of God’s love and mercy: Jesus’ disciples were to preach the Good News that God is not a punishing judge, but rather a loving Father who wants to save men from their bondage to sin through Jesus His Son. The disciples were to preach the message of metanoia or repentance--which has disturbing implications. To "repent" means to change one's mind and then fit one's actions to this change. Metanoia literally means change your mind. It can also mean taking a new direction. Thus, repentance means a change of heart and a change of action--a change from a self-centered life to a God-centered life. Such a change may hurt a bit at times. It is also interesting to note that Jesus commanded his disciples to anoint with oil. In the ancient world, oil was regarded as a sort of cure-all. In the hands of Christ's servants, however, the old cures would acquire a new virtue through the power of God.
Life Messages: # 1: We, too, have a witnessing mission: Each Christian is called not only to be a disciple but also to be an apostle. As disciples, we have to follow Jesus and imitate Jesus. As apostles, we have to evangelize the world. We are called to share with others not just words, or ideas, or doctrines but an experience, our experience of God and His Son, Jesus. Like the apostles, like St. Francis Assisi, like Blessed Mother Teresa, we are all chosen and sent to proclaim the Gospel through our living. It is through our transparent Christian lives that we must show in our own actions the love, mercy and concern of Jesus for the people around us. Since we are baptized, Jesus is calling us in our working and living environment to evangelize, to invite people to know Jesus, to love him, to serve him and to follow him. An important part of evangelism is the simple act of inviting a friend or family member to join us in worship. This is where reconciliation between persons and God is most likely to take place. We do not have to commit verbal assault on someone with our convictions. A simple invitation offered out of a loving and joyful heart is the most powerful evangelistic message of all.
#2: We have a liberating mission: Although many people don’t believe in real demonic possession in our age, there are many demons which can control the lives of people around us making them helpless slaves. For example there are the demons of nicotine, alcohol, gambling, pornography and promiscuous sex, materialism and consumerism, or of any other activity which somehow can take control of people’s lives and become an addiction over which they have no control. All of these, or any one of them, can turn people into slaves. We need the help of Jesus to liberate us and others from these things. Jesus is inviting us today to cooperate with him. He wants us to be his instruments of liberation, to help others recover their freedom. We are meant to help people to cure their sicknesses - not only the bodily sicknesses but psychological and emotional illnesses as well. As a family member, a friend, a colleague, an evangelizer, when we work with Jesus, we can truly have a healing influence.
#3: We have a mission to live as children of God. Realization of our dignity as children of God should change our outlook on life. We are to be children filled with love, rather than selfishness and disobedience. We are to respect our brothers and sisters in Christ. As God’s children, we should live a life of absolute trust in the goodness of our Heavenly Father, who knows what is best for us. The realization that we are the children of God should bring us great comfort, peace and joy--even in our worst moments.
#4: We have a mission to grow in Divine adoption: It is in the Church--principally through the seven Sacraments--that our Divine adoption is made possible. We are chosen by God in Christ, baptized into his death and his Church, healed by his forgiveness, and nourished at the Eucharistic table. Today, when we gather as His adopted sons and daughters at this table of Christ’s sacrificial banquet, we can rightly address God as our Divine Father and ask Him for the special anointing of the Holy Spirit that we may grow daily in the true spirit and practice of our Divine adoption.
Introduction: Today’s readings introduce Jesus as a prophet and explain how prophets and other messengers from God inevitably suffer rejection. The readings challenge us to face rejection and hardship with prophetic courage.
Scripture lessons: The first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, tells us about his call from God to be a prophet. Yahweh warns Ezekiel that he is being sent to obstinate and rebellious Israelites in exile in Babylon. Hence, as God’s prophet, he will have to face rejection and persecution for giving God’s message. The reading gives us the warning that as Christians who accept the call of Jesus and seek to follow him, we also may face indifference and hostility, contempt and scorn, weakness, hardship and persecution, insults and rejection. In the second reading, St. Paul gives us the same warning from his experience that not only the prophets, but the apostles and missionaries also will have to encounter hardships and rejection in their preaching mission. Paul confesses that God has given him a share in Christ’s suffering – a chronic illness which gave him pain, a "thorn in the flesh," so that he might rely on God’s grace and might glory in the power of a strengthening God. The apostle invites us to rise above our own weakness and disability, cooperate with the grace of God and preach the word of God by word and example as Paul did. Today’s Gospel passage, Mark 6:1-6, shows us that many people of Jesus' hometown of Nazareth did not accept him as a prophet because they knew him and his family too well. They knew that he was a carpenter with no schooling in Mosaic Law and knew that he could not be the promised Messiah who would come from Bethlehem as a descendant of David’s royal family. Besides, they were angry when Jesus not only did not work any miracles in Nazareth, but chided them with prophetic courage for their lack of faith and warned that he would go to other people to do his preaching and healing ministry.
Life messages: Today’s Scriptures challenge us to face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism. Very often our friends, families, or childhood companions fail to listen to us and refuse to accept the words of grace, love and encouragement that we offer to them because they are too familiar with us. Hence, they are unable to see us as God’s appointed instruments, the agents of God’s healing and saving grace. But we have to face such rejection with prophetic courage because by our Baptism we are called to be prophets like Jesus, sharing his prophetic mission. As prophets, our task is to speak the truth and oppose the evils in our society without condoning or encouraging sinful behavior even in our dear ones. Let us also acknowledge, appreciate and encourage the prophets of our time who stand for truth and justice in our society with the wisdom of God in their heads, the power of the Holy Spirit in their words and the courage of God in their actions.
OT XIV [B] (July 5) Ez 2: 2-5; II Cor 12: 7-10; Mark 6: 1-6
Anecdotes: # 1: Rev. Deacon Prophet: There is a funny story about a bishop who was interviewing a senior seminarian before his ordination as deacon, and asked him where he would like to be assigned as a deacon for pastoral training. The seminarian said, somewhat boldly, "Oh, my bishop, anywhere but New Canaan!" "Why not there," the bishop asked? "You know," the seminarian answered, "That’s my hometown -- and we all know that ‘a prophet is not without honor except in his native place.’” The bishop replied, "Don't worry my friend! Nobody in your hometown is going to confuse you with a prophet."
# 2: Don’t allow rejection to derail your dreams: Brilliant British Theologian G.K. Chesterton could not read until he was eight years old. A teacher said if his head were opened they would probably find a lump of fat where there was supposed to be a brain. That teacher was wrong. Einstein’s parents were informed by a teacher that he would never amount to anything. Beatrix Potter’s The Tale of Peter Rabbit, was rejected by seven publishers. Richard Bach got twenty rejection slips before Jonathan Livingston Seagull was published. Dr. Seuss, one of the most popular children’s authors of all time, got more than two dozen rejection slips before The Cat in the Hat made it to print. Ruth Graham felt an uncontrollable urge to run out of the meeting the first time she heard Billy Graham preach. She was not convinced of his preaching ability. She was put off by his preaching style. Billy had to improve his preaching before Ruth would become his wife. Today’s Gospel tells us how Jesus encountered rejection with prophetic courage.
# 3: Good news to the poor! But are we poor? Mother Teresa thinks so. There was a beautiful article about her in Time magazine. She was asked about the materialism of the West. "The more you have, the more you are occupied," she contends. "But the less you have the freer you are. Poverty for us is a freedom. It is a joyful freedom. There is no television here, no this, no that. This is the only fan in the whole house...and it is for the guests. But we are happy. "I find the rich poorer," she continues. "Sometimes they are lonelier inside...The hunger for love is much more difficult to fill than the hunger for bread...The real poor know what is joy." When asked about her plans for the future, she replied, "I just take one day. Yesterday is gone. Tomorrow has not come. We have only today to love Jesus." Is there anyone in this Church as rich as Mother Teresa?
Introduction: Today’s readings introduce Jesus as a prophet and explain how prophets and other messengers from God inevitably suffer rejection. The readings challenge us to face rejection and hardship with prophetic courage. The first reading, taken from the book of the prophet Ezekiel, tells us about his call from God to be a prophet. Yahweh warns Ezekiel that he is being sent to obstinate and rebellious Israelites in exile in Babylon. Hence, as God’s prophet, he will have to face rejection and persecution for giving God’s message. The reading gives us the warning that as Christians who accept the call of Jesus and seek to follow him, we also may face indifference and hostility, contempt and scorn, weakness, hardship and persecution, insults and rejection. In the second reading, St. Paul gives us the same warning from his experience that not only the prophets, but the apostles and missionaries also, will have to encounter hardships and rejection in their preaching mission. Paul confesses that God gave him a share in Christ’s suffering – a chronic illness which gave him pain, a “thorn in the flesh" – so that he might rely on God’s grace and might glory in the power of a strengthening God. Paul invites us to rise above our own weakness and disability, cooperate with the grace of God and preach the word of God by word and example as the apostle did. Today's Gospel passage, (Mark 6:1-6), shows how many people of Jesus’ hometown Nazareth did not accept him as a prophet because they knew him and his family. They knew that he was a carpenter with no schooling in Mosaic Law and that he could not be the promised Messiah who would come from Bethlehem as a descendant of David’s royal family. Besides, they were angry when Jesus did not work any miracles in Nazareth, chided them with prophetic courage for their lack of faith and warned that he would go to other people to do his preaching and healing ministry.
First reading, Ezekiel 2:2-5: Today's reading from Ezekiel captures the same experience in the career of the prophet Ezekiel, who lived about 600 years before Jesus. Ezekiel is warned by God that, though he has been called by Yahweh and sent with a message to the people of Israel, they will almost certainly refuse to hear and accept his message. God is angry about the rebelliousness of the people to whom he is sending his prophet. Ezekiel was the first person called to become a prophet while the people were in Exile in Babylon. While the false prophets were consoling people, saying that the Exile was soon to end and they'd be going home to a newly prosperous Jerusalem soon, Ezekiel resolutely foretold the further destruction of Jerusalem. No wonder he was hated and rejected by the people! Those who accept the call of God and seek to follow Him may face indifference and hostility, contempt and scorn, weakness, hardship and persecution, insults and rejection.
Second Reading, 2 Corinthians 12: 7-10: In today’s selection, Paul frankly admits the fact he had learned by trial and error, that he couldn't preach the Gospel on the basis of his own strength and talent. Rather, the weaker he became, the more room he left for the Spirit of God to work through him. In the midst of a conflict with the Corinthian Christian community, Paul tells about two of his deepest spiritual experiences. In one he had an ecstatic theophany when he received an exceptional revelation. In the other, he fervently prayed to have the unidentified cause of great suffering removed, but was given instead the reassurance that God's grace would be sufficient for his every need. Paul’s opponents within the Corinthian community presumed that an authentic apostle would be vindicated by heavenly visitation and a miraculous healing. Instead, Paul discovered positive value in his pain. He understood that suffering, accepted as God’s gift, produces patience, sensitivity and compassion and a genuine appreciation of life's blessings. Hence, Paul declares that the weaknesses which continue to mark his life as an apostle represent the effective working of the power of the crucified Christ in his ministry. Paul was content with weaknesses and hardships for the sake of Christ; we, too, find God’s grace sufficient for our needs, for Christ’s power dwells in us in our weakness, and in weakness we are truly strong.
Exegesis: The context: It was natural that Jesus should visit his hometown, Nazareth, as a rabbi with a band of his disciples. On the Sabbath day he went to the local synagogue. In the synagogue there was no definite person to give the address. Any distinguished stranger present who had a message to give might be asked by the ruler of the synagogue to speak. Since Jesus’ fame as a preacher and miracle worker in other places of Galilee had reached Nazareth, he was invited to read from the Prophets and explain the text. During his “Inaugural Address” or “Mission Statement,” Jesus took upon himself the identity of a prophet, different from the image of a miracle worker that people wished to see. As other faithful prophets of Israel had done, Jesus, too, held people accountable for their selfishness, their faithlessness to God, their lack of justice and mercy (Mi 6:6-8), and their sinfulness.
The adverse reaction: The first reaction of the people in the synagogue to Jesus' words was one of astonishment. Luke says they were "amazed at the gracious words that came from his lips." But Mark says that they asked one another: “Where did this man get all this? They knew him only as a carpenter from a poor family, with no formal training in Mosaic Law. Certainly they thought he had gone far beyond what one of his status as a humble carpenter should go. (One of the dreams of Martin Luther King was that people "would be judged not by the color of their skin but by the content of their character"). Jesus’ neighbors did not expect him, “the carpenter’s son,” to be skilled in interpreting the Scriptures. They also could not understand how a mere carpenter could be their political Messiah who would liberate them from Roman rule and reestablish the Davidic kingdom of power and glory. The local townsfolk also objected that Jesus had no distinguished lineage. He is identified as “the son of Mary” (v. 3) rather than the traditional “son of Joseph” (“Bar Joseph”) title. Such a reference could be seen as an insult because men in that culture were identified by who their fathers were (see John 1:45). Jesus responded: “No prophet is accepted in his native place.” Those who accept the call of God and seek to follow Him may face indifference and hostility, contempt and scorn, weakness, hardship and persecution, insults and rejection.
Life messages: 1) Let us face rejection with prophetic courage and optimism. The story of Jesus' rejection in his own town is a story that we can identify with, because it is a story that has happened to most of us. We might have experienced the pain of rejection caused by hurts, wounds, betrayal, divorce, abandonment, violated trust, trauma, neglect or various forms of abuse. What about rejection by those closest to us? Often our friends, families, or childhood companions fail to listen to, and refuse to accept, the words of grace, love and encouragement that we offer to them, because they are too familiar with us. Hence, they are unable to see us as God's appointed instruments, the agents of God’s healing and saving grace. Let us check also the other side of the coin. How often do we discount God’s agents through prejudice? How often do we fail to see God’s image in them because of our own hardheartedness? We must realize that God's power is always available to transform even the most unlikely people.
2) We need to handle rejection in the right spirit: a) We can handle rejection with respect – respect for ourselves and respect for others. Our first reaction to rejection is often anger – anger at ourselves for assuming we deserve what we got and bitterness toward others who perpetuate the rejection. In the face of rejection, we will be wise to follow the advice of St. Paul who said, “Be angry and sin not. Let not the sun go down on your anger.” b) We need to avoid self-defeating assumptions. One rejection need not be an indictment on one’s life. Rejection is not synonymous with continuous failure. c) We need to avoid magnifying the rejection. Rejection need not be a forecast of our future, and it must not become a self-fulfilling prophecy. Rejection in the past need not be a predictor of rejection in the future. d) We need to avoid allowing rejection to derail our dreams and instead to keep coming back. e) We need to learn from our rejections. We are not perfect, and we do not always get it right, but we need to keep coming back until we do get it right. Every rejection can be a lesson if we stay open to new possibilities and new opportunities. What can I do differently? How can I improve? What needs can I meet? These are the questions we need to ask if we are to prevent a trouble from going to waste.
3) Let us acknowledge the prophets of God’s goodness in our midst. God is present giving us his message through our nearest and dearest and our neighbors and coworkers. Since God uses them as His prophets to convey His message to us, it is our duty to acknowledge and honor them. Let us express our appreciation today for our families – spouses for each other, parents and children for each other. A word of appreciation for the lady who cooks the dinner, for the neighbor who is always ready to share our happiness and sorrow, for the friends who have given us time, support and attention during a recent bereavement or a tragedy in our life – all are our proper responses to God’s messengers of love and light. Let us not take for granted the presence of God among us as evidenced by the goodness shown by family and friends. Let us also recognize God’s direction, help and support in our lives through His words in the Bible and through the advice and examples of others.
4) We must have the prophetic courage of our convictions. By our Baptism, God calls us to be prophets like Jesus, sharing his prophetic mission. The task of a prophet is to speak God’s truth. We must never be afraid of this call. We may rely on Jesus to supply us with the courage to oppose the many evils in our society. By legalizing abortion in 1973, the U.S. Supreme Court has allowed the killing of over thirty million unborn children in forty-two years and it is tolerating the brutal execution of 4400 defenseless lives every day by abortion. Our television and movie conglomerates, which are supported by the tax money of millions of citizens, systematically poison the minds of the young as well as the old by the excessive importance given to perverted sex and unnecessary violence. Many well-known corporate sponsors support more than 75,000 U. S. websites of pornographic material, thus enabling the destructive behavior of perverts and sex abusers. Our society tells youngsters that promiscuous sex, drugs and alcohol are means by which they express their individuality. It is here that our country needs Christians with the prophetic courage of their convictions to fight against such moral evils.
5) We need to speak the truth of Christ with love, never being hypocritical or disrespectful. We must never remain silent in the face of evil for fear of being thought "politically incorrect." Jesus was not against conflict if it promoted truth. He taught us to give respect and freedom without condoning or encouraging sinful behavior. Love does not tolerate destructive behavior but, nevertheless, it sometimes causes pain--just as a surgeon must sometimes hurt in order to heal. We can be kind, charitable, and honest and forgiving as we speak forth our own convictions as Jesus did in the synagogue.