17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, cycle B

Let us pray in the spirit of the Letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians (4:1-6):

Brothers and sisters,

St. Paul urges us to live in a manner worthy of the call

we have received,

with all humility and gentleness, with patience,

bearing with one another through love,

striving to preserve the unity of the spirit

through the bond of peace:

one body and one Spirit,

as we were also called to the one hope of our call;

one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

one God and Father of all,

who is over all and through all and in all.  AMEN

This is the translation in The Message:  “In light of all this, here’s what I want you to do. While I’m locked up here, a prisoner for the Master, I want you to get out there and walk—better yet, run!—on the road God called you to travel. I don’t want any of you sitting around on your hands. I don’t want anyone strolling off, down some path that goes nowhere. And mark that you do this with humility and discipline—not in fits and starts, but steadily, pouring yourselves out for each other in acts of love, alert at noticing differences and quick at mending fences.  You were all called to travel on the same road and in the same direction, so stay together, both outwardly and inwardly. You have one Master, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who rules over all, works through all, and is present in all. Everything you are and think and do is permeated with Oneness.”  How does this speak to you?

1st Reading: 2 Kings 4: 42-44

From Mary Birmingham, Word and Worship for Year B, 583-584:

The faith history of Israel between King David’s death and the Babylonian exile (586 B.C.) is encapsulated in the Books of Kings. These books relate the history of a people in relationship with their God. It gives a rather panoramic view of the Davidic dynasty, the relationship between the Northern Kingdom (Israel) and the Southern Kingdom (Judea), and the religious judgments of a people. During this time the prophetic tradition also developed. The kings and leaders and the people were not only to worship Yahweh, but they were to live according to the wisdom and love of Yahweh. Elijah and Elisha were early, legendary prophets and holy men. Many of the remembered stories of them are a bit like epic cinema. None of the other prophets spoke of miracles, but the powerful ministries of these two men are replete with such stories.

Barley loaves were used in the Temple offering. The man who brought the bread to Elisha as “first fruit” also has a liturgical significance. By rights the man should have taken the ritual bread to the Gilgal sanctuary, which had been turned into a shrine to the pagan god, Baal. He chose, instead, to take the bread to Elisha as a sign that he would not worship idols but would remain true to the one Lord and God.  First fruits are sacred, something very meaningful and precious to offer to the Lord.  What are your first fruits?  Are you willing to lift them up to the Lord?

The Gospel: John 6: 1-15

What does this story reveal to you about God?  Notice the setting: It is by the shore of the Sea of Galilee. 5,000 people were there (quite different from the wedding feast of Cana, the first sign in John’s gospel). Jesus is up on a mountain, like Moses – and like Moses he is called to care for a great, hungry multitude. Twelve wicker baskets…like the 12 tribes of Israel, the 12 apostles, all the people—a number of completeness.  Barley is the type of bread used, the bread of the poor – it also was used in Temple worship. Barley is a hearty grain. It can survive extreme weather conditions such as heat and drought. It matures in less time than other grains. The feast of Passover coincides with the barley feast, so it no surprise that barley cakes take a star role in this drama. Galilee was famous for its pickled fish; dried fish was also common – an easy ‘luncheon meat’ to bring along for a journey. The word fish in Greek (ichtys) was also an acronym for Jesus Christ Savior, Son of God, and a symbol used in the early church to identify Christians.

Consider how limited the disciples seem in their problem solving.  Philip can’t seem to figure out how to feed the crowd.  Their limitations are like the church’s limitations.  There aren’t enough priests…how will the people receive Eucharist?  But Andrew and the little boy are more imaginative.  How do we overcome our limitations?

Also consider what happens with the crowd when they have to share.  Jesus created a sense of community when 5 thousand people (probably more since as the scripture says, it only included men) gathered.  There is common ground in everyone sharing the same food…one body, one Spirit  (in Ephesians).  Sunday by Sunday by Shawn Madigan, CSJ

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