17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (Cycle B) – July 26, 2009 Scripture Readings First 2 Kings 4:42-44 Second Ephesians 4:1-6 Gospel John

6:1-15 Prepared by: Fr. Peter John Cameron, O.P. 1. Subject Matter

God’s lavish love and superabundant generosity manifest themselves in circumstances that appear impossible The Eucharist as the means to “preserve the unity of the Spirit” God values and makes use of the “fragments” of our lives

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2. Exegetical Notes

“Elisha insisted: ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over:” “The focus is on Elisha’s insight. He knows in advance what will happen and what should be done. He knows the minds of kings and how to counter them. Elisha makes the death-dealing to be life giving and the meager abundant.” (The International Bible Commentary) “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received…. Preserve the unity of the spirit…:” “Charity prompts people to action more than fear. St. Paul urges the Ephesians to remain united, giving them a motive: a friend sympathizes with a suffering friend and more readily tries to fulfill his wishes so that he might thereby console him. Charity is a union of souls. the union of souls through love will not endure unless it is bound. Peace proves to be a true bond; that peace which is, according to Augustine, the balanced harmony between the measure, form, and order of a thing. This is achieved when each possesses what is proper to himself.” (St. Thomas Aquinas) “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted:” “John gives prominence to Jesus’ instruction to his disciples to gather up the pieces left over. What in the synoptics simply confirms the miracle becomes in John a considered action, ‘so that nothing is lost.’ This Johannine addition acquires a theological meaning is we compare Jn 6:27: ‘Do not labor for the food that passes away.’ The bread which strengthens the body passes away, but it points symbolically to a food which endures. In the evangelist’s mind the idea that nothing should be lost probably expresses, not just the Jews’ high regard for bread as a gift from God, but also indicates the symbolic character of the bread offered by Jesus. The point is not

these scraps of bread but an imperishable bread of which the bread of the wonderful feeding is an image.” (Rudolf Schnackenburg) 3. References to the Catechism of the Catholic Church

814 From the beginning, this one Church has been marked by a great diversity which comes from both the variety of God's gifts and the diversity of those who receive them. Within the unity of the People of God, a multiplicity of peoples and cultures is gathered together. Among the Church's members, there are different gifts, offices, conditions, and ways of life. "Holding a rightful place in the communion of the Church there are also particular Churches that retain their own traditions."263 The great richness of such diversity is not opposed to the Church's unity. Yet sin and the burden of its consequences constantly threaten the gift of unity. And so the Apostle has to exhort Christians to "maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace."264 866 The Church is one: she acknowledges one Lord, confesses one faith, is born of one Baptism, forms only one Body, is given life by the one Spirit, for the sake of one hope (cf. Eph 4:3-5), at whose fulfillment all divisions will be overcome. 1151 Signs taken up by Christ. In his preaching the Lord Jesus often makes use of the signs of creation to make known the mysteries of the Kingdom of God. He performs healings and illustrates his preaching with physical signs or symbolic gestures. He gives new meaning to the deeds and signs of the Old Covenant, above all to the Exodus and the Passover, for he himself is the meaning of all these signs. 548 The signs worked by Jesus attest that the Father has sent him. They invite belief in him. To those who turn to him in faith, he grants what they ask. So miracles strengthen faith in the One who does his Father's works; they bear witness that he is the Son of God. 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death, Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below, but to free men from the gravest slavery, sin, which thwarts them in their vocation as God's sons and causes all forms of human bondage. 1335 The miracles of the multiplication of the loaves, when the Lord says the blessing, breaks and distributes the loaves through his disciples to feed the multitude, prefigure the superabundance of this unique bread of his Eucharist.

4. Patristic Commentary and Other Authorities

St. Augustine: “Christ did what God does. Just as God multiplies a few seeds into a whole field of wheat, so Christ multiplied the five loaves in his hands. For there was power in the hands of Christ. Those five loaves were like seeds, not because they were cast on the earth but because they were multiplied by the one who made the earth.” Didache: “Just as this broken bread was scattered upon the mountain and then was gathered together and become one, so may your Church be gathered together from the ends of the earth into your Kingdom.” Tertullian: “Such was the greatness of his miracle that he willed the slender supply of food not only to be enough but even to prove superabundant. Here he followed ancient precedent.

For in the same way during the famine in Elijah’s time, the scanty and final meal of the widow of Zarepath was multiplied by the blessing of the prophet throughout the period of the famine. O Christ, even in your novelties you are old!”

St. Cyril of Alexandria: “Initially the disciples were reluctant to feed the hungry, but seeing this, the Savior gave to them in abundance from the fragments. This teaches us as well that we, by expending a little for the glory of God, shall receive richer grace. Therefore, we must not be slothful regarding the communion of love toward our brothers and sisters but rather put away from us, as far as possible, the cowardice and fear that lead to inhospitality. Thus we might be confirmed in hope through steadfast faith in the power of God to multiply even our smallest acts of goodness.” Romanos the Melodist: “Jesus. For he ineffably once nourished five thousand in the wilderness; fearsome wonder, full of all amazement! For the Savior took five loaves, as it is written, and, from them, nourished the thousands, and all were completely filled by the ineffable Wisdom. For they did not need a multitude of loaves, since Christ was present, who is the heavenly bread of incorruption.” St. Jerome: “We, in the flesh of Christ, which is the word of divine doctrine, or the interpretation of the Sacred Scriptures, receive manna in accordance with and in proportion to our desire. If you are a saint, you will find refreshment; if a sinner, anguish. With the best of wheat he fills you; he does not lose a single fragment. He has blessed your children within you; “To as many as received him he gave the power of becoming sons of God.” St. Ephrem the Syrian: “Let the field in which bread multiplied thank him. The hungry were satisfied and had provisions left over; they took them up and went away. Their provisions that they received announced you in their cities. Your bread of barleys was more desirable than the king’s table. Blessed is the one who was worthy to eat it. Blessed is the one who wondered and did not eat to contemplate you, our Lord, with awe.” St. Thomas Aquinas: “Wonderful is this Sacrament in which, in virtue of the words of institution, charged with the divine power, the symbolic species are changed into flesh and blood; in which accidents subsist without a subject; and in which, without violation of nature’s law, by consecration the single and whole Christ self-identically exists in different places—as a voice is heard and exists in many places—continuing unchanged, remaining inviolable when partaken, nor suffering any diminution; nay, he is whole and entire and perfect in each and every fragment of the host, as visual appearances are multiplied in a hundred mirrors.” St. John Chrysostom: “In the body it is the living spirit that holds all members together, even when they are far apart. So it is here. The purpose for which the Spirit was given was to bring ino unity all who remain separated by different ethnic and cultural divisions: young and old, rich and poor, women and men.” St. Augustine: “And what are the fragments, but the parts which the people could not eat? An intimation, that those deeper truths, which the multitude cannot take in, should be entrusted to those who are capable of receiving them, and afterwards teaching them to others; as were the Apostles. For which reason twelve baskets were filled with them.” Fr. Pierre Chaumonot, S.J. (+1693): “At each Mass that he says the priest has the honor of presenting to God so large a number of his ancestors, his friends, his officers, who have spent their lives and given their blood even to the last drop, for his glory. Hence, it is quite just that the priest should intend not only to renew the pleasure that the Lord received from

the sacrifices of Abel, Abraham, Melchizedech, and all the other saints of the Old Testament, but he should also offer him the divine Victim who was prefigured by all of these. How much love does not our Savior deserve, who, to fulfill more worthily his office of Mediator of all men, multiplies himself at every hour an infinite number of times in the hands of his priests. By this multiplication of his Body and Blood he wishes to unite to his own merits all the actions and sufferings of his mystical members!”

Dorothy Day: “I believe too that when the priest offers Mass at the altar, and says the solemn words, ‘This is my body, this is my blood,’ that the bread and the wine truly become the Body and Blood of Christ, Son of God, one of the Three Divine Persons. I believe in a personal God. I believe in Jesus Christ, true God and true man. And intimate; oh how most closely intimate we may desire to be. I believe we must render most reverent homage to him who created us and stilled the sea and told the winds to be calm, and multiplied the loaves and fishes. He is transcendent and he is immanent. He is closer than the air we breathe and just as vital to us.” Caryll Houselander: “Each one of us can only live a fragment of Christ’s life at one time, perhaps one moment of it or one incident or one experience. But through our communion with one another in him, through our oneness with one another because of his one life in us all, we make up what is wanting in one another and are whole; and in us all, as one Body, his whole life is lived.” Fr. Michael L. Gaudoin-Parker: “The celebration of the Paschal Mystery both signifies and creates a bonding in brotherhood and friendship, because it contains the source and summit of communion with the Father in the Lord Jesus’ Spirit. Conversion involves the transformation of all our fragmented experiences, all our disjointed and painful memories, all our divisive and frustrating moments of unachieved hopes, yearnings and dreams, as well as our failures and loss of self-esteem or sense of worth resulting from the destructive power of evil. In every eucharistic celebration the Church’s proclamation of Christ’s new and eternal covenant calls us to receive the grace of conversion, which most radically means being turned together towards living Christ’s Passover, that eternal instant of his power of love’s dynamism manifest and communicated in human history.” Jessica Powers: With twenty loaves of bread Elisha fed the one hundred till they were satisfied, and Scripture tells us there was bread left over. Jesus did more: with five small barley loaves and two dried fish he fed five thousand men, together with their wives and children, all neatly arranged upon the cushioned grass. The awed disciples, when the crowd had eaten, gathered up what was left: twelve baskets full. Who then received these fragments? Hopefully, the least (though not less favored) and the poor. I think of those who always seem to get the leavings from the banqueting of others, the scraps of bread, of life, that goodness saves.

I pray that they come proudly when invited, make merry at their meal and have their fill, and rise up thankfully, remembering the fragments, too, were miracles of love. 5. Examples from the Saints and Other Exemplars

Saint Dominic and the miraculous feeding: The community at San Sisto had grown very numerous. One day, Dominic was informed by the procurator that their begging had produced almost no food. He ordered the brethren, nevertheless, to gather at table for their meal. He then prayed and suddenly two young men or angels, looking mysteriously alike, came into the refectory to dispense a portion of bread and wine to each friar. The same procurator told of a similar miracle on another occasion.

6. Quotations from Pope Benedict XVI

“After multiplying the loaves, Jesus sees that the crowds want to make him king, and he flees—to the hills, by himself (Jn 6:15). It summarizes the entire struggle of Jesus: it is about what is really important in the life of man. This ultimate thing, this decisive thing, is the primacy of God. The germ of all temptation is setting God aside, so that he seems to be a secondary concern when compared with all the urgent priorities of our lives. To consider ourselves, the needs and desires of the moment to be more important than he is—that is the temptation that always besets us. For in doing so we deny God his divinity, and we make ourselves, or rather, the powers that threaten us, into our god.” “Jesus gathers up, so to speak, the pitiful fragments of our suffering, our loving, our hoping, and our waiting into a great flood in which it shares in his life, so that thereby we truly share in the sacrifice. Christ bears us up; he identifies himself with us to such an extent that our sins belong to him and his being to us: he truly accepts us and takes us up, so that we ourselves become active with his support and alongside him, so that we ourselves cooperate and join in the sacrifice with him, participating in the mystery ourselves. Thus our own life and suffering, our own hoping and loving, can also become fruitful, in the new heart he has given us.” “In the course of its wanderings and gropings, human nature is searching for itself. Jesus is the man for all men, the man in whom man’s divine destination, his divine origin, finds its goal. In him man’s fragmented nature is unified and preserved in unity with the God from whom it derives and whom, in its forlorn state, it seeks.” “It is not power, but love that redeems us! This is God’s sign: he himself is love.” “The unity of men in their multiplicity became possible because God, this one God of heaven and earth, showed himself to us; because the essential truth of our life, of our ‘from where?’ and ‘to where?’, became visible when he showed himself to us and in Jesus Christ made us see his face, himself. This truth of the essence of our being, of our living and our dying, truth that by God was made visible, unites us and makes us become brothers. Catholicity and unity go together. And unity has a content: the faith that the apostles transmitted to us on behalf of Christ.”

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7. Other Considerations

Von Balthasar writes: “Faith means the fundamental response to the love that has offered itself up for me. Faith is ordered to God’s love that surpasses and anticipates us. The work of faith is to recognize that there is nothing higher or greater than this absolute love.” The reason why Elisha commanded his servant to set a mere twenty loaves before a hundred people is because he possessed this faith. It is this faith that moved Andrew and the other disciples to distribute the five loaves and two fish to the 5000. The Christian’s obedient surrender to such extravagant Providence is what preserves the Church in the unity of the Spirit. From the baskets of fragments we gather, the one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one hope of our call appear. We are to risk believing in God’s generosity more than in our own ideas.

Recommended Resources Benedict XVI, Pope. Benedictus. Yonkers: Magnificat, 2006. Biblia Clerus: http://www.clerus.org/bibliaclerus/index_eng.html Cameron, Peter John. To Praise, To Bless, To Preach—Cycle B. Huntington: Our Sunday Visitor, 1999. Hahn, Scott: http://www.salvationhistory.com/library/scripture/churchandbible/homilyhelps/homilyhelps.cfm. Martin, Francis: http://www.hasnehmedia.com/homilies.shtml

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