Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – B

 

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“Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.”  So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat.”

PRAYER FOR THE WEEK

Prayer for Trust

O Christ Jesus, when all is darkness and we feel our weakness and helplessness, give us the sense of Your presence, Your love, and Your strength.  Help us to have perfect trust in Your protecting love and strengthening power, so that nothing may frighten or worry us, for, living close to You, we shall see Your hand, Your purpose, Your will in all things, through Christ our Lord. Amen.

(By St. Ignatius of Loyola, 1491-1556)

COLLECT

O God, protector of those who hope in you,

without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy,

bestow in abundance your mercy upon us

and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide,

we may use the good things that pass

in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure,

Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son,

who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit,

one God, for ever and ever.

READING I

Elisha.jpg

2 Kgs 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God,

twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits,

and fresh grain in the ear.

Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”

But his servant objected,

“How can I set this before a hundred people?”

Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.”

“For thus says the LORD,

‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'”

And when they had eaten, there was some left over,

as the LORD had said.

APPLICATION

This incident in the life of Elisha is chosen for today’s first reading because the gospel story deals with our Lord’s more astounding multiplication of the loaves (Jn. 6: 1-15). Both stories have this in common: bread is multiplied miraculously in order to feed hungry men. The miracle worked by our Lord was greater in its result–five loaves satisfied five thousand men. This, however, does not alter the essence of Elisha’s miracle. In both cases, God was producing more than the powers of nature could produce of themselves. This appears impossible only to those who have a warped idea of God and his essence.

There are such people, however, people who deny that God can in a particular case change the laws of nature which he himself has laid down. These people are not atheists, but their mental concept of God is not derived from his revelation of himself which is the only human way of knowing the nature of God, but from their own preconceived ideas. They allow God to exist, but they have him interned, locked-up in his heaven, unable to engage himself in the affairs of the world he has created. This is surely a most arbitrary and high-handed way of treating God. They put outside his reach the world he has created: it concerns him no longer as he is unable to be concerned in it.

This, however, is not the truth about God as revealed by himself. In his revelation of himself, he has told us that he is able to alter his own laws of nature, for he has undoubtedly altered these laws time and again, but always for some very particular purpose. The stability and validity of the natural laws are not thereby weakened in any way, for God uses his power only very rarely and always for a very particular purpose, namely, to prove to men that he exists, that he knows their needs and that he has a very fatherly interest in them.

Ever since his first revelation of himself to Abraham, God has worked miracles and through them has convinced men of his existence and absolute power. Through their prayers, the prophets of the Old Testament obtained miracles from God. Christ, on the other hand, worked miracles by his own power because he was God. He did not have to pray for that power–it was his by nature. As God delegated his power of miracles in the Old Testament so did Christ give the same power to his Apostles when he sent them out to preach. This power was very effective in convincing men of the truth of Christ: that he was the Son of God, and of the truth of the Christian faith. As the Church spread throughout the Roman empire miracles became less frequent, for as St. Augustine says : “one waters a newly-planted sapling but once it has taken solid root it needs no further watering.”

Holy men and women down through the history of the Church have had the power of miracles from God as a reward for, and a proof to others of, their sanctity. Apart from the marvels of God’s love and interest in his children–marvels which in a broad sense can be called miracles–real miracles occur in our day too. God is still master of creation. Not everyone, however, that asks for a miracle needs it and not everyone that needs it gets it, for God has his own wise ways of making us earn our eternal salvation. The seriously ill member of a family whose cure would earn the eternal gratitude of all connected with him, may be left uncured, for God sees that the charity and unselfish care bestowed on that sick person is the one and only way that will earn heaven for the other members of that family. Because he is kind and loving, God must refuse the requests often of those who are very close to him. It is because he loves us that he wants the best for us and wants us to reach heaven. If, therefore, the temporal favor we seek would hinder our progress on the road to heaven, God will not grant our request.

RESPONSORIAL PSALM

Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

Let all your works give you thanks, O LORD,

and let your faithful ones bless you.

Let them discourse of the glory of your kingdom

and speak of your might.

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

The eyes of all look hopefully to you,

and you give them their food in due season;

you open your hand

and satisfy the desire of every living thing.

The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

The LORD is just in all his ways

and holy in all his works.

The LORD is near to all who call upon him,

to all who call upon him in truth.


The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.

READING II

paul-berea.jpg

Eph 4:1-6

Brothers and sisters:

I, a prisoner for the Lord,

urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you 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 you were also called to the one hope of your call;

one Lord, one faith, one baptism;

one God and Father of all,

who is over all and through all and in all.

APPLICATION

What St. Paul asked of the Christians of Ephesus over nineteen hundred years ago, he is asking of us today. He is asking us to show ourselves worthy of our Christian vocation, worthy of the privilege Christ has won for us, namely, adopted sonship with God. The first Christian virtue that St. Paul recommends his converts to practice is humility: “with all lowliness and meekness” they are to conduct their lives. For a rational and reasonable man this virtue, which is simply admitting what we are, should not be a difficult one. What have we of any lasting value which we can call our own? All the qualities of mind and body were given to us by God. Our race or tribe or nation was not of our choice. If our family happens to have wealth or position of importance, is this really something of which to boast or to be proud? What lasting value has wealth and worldly position? There is no apparent difference between Dives and Lazarus, between a millionaire and a beggar when laid out in death.

A proper estimation of himself should not be difficult for any sane man, but especially for a Christian who has the example of Christ before his eyes. Christ could have boasted: he had greatness itself, he was God but he hid his divinity; “he emptied himself of it” in order to live among us as man so that he could raise us up and make us fit for heaven. Having become man, he allowed men to despise and insult him, to strike him on the face and crown him with thorns; they spat on him and derided him while he was dying on the cross. He who could have annihilated all his enemies by one simple wish, patiently bore these humiliations for our sake.

With such a Master, with such an example, could we dare to look down on our fellowman and be overcome by the insults of some fellowman? Could we demand respect and special consideration from those of our neighbors who have less of this world’s goods, or less gifts of mind or body than we have? If a sane pagan should not act thus, how much more unbecoming, how much more contrary to his vocation would it not be for a Christian to do so! A proud Christian is a contradiction in terms; the proud man is not following the humble Christ, he has joined the ranks of the Pharisees who put Christ to death.

The second virtue, and one which flows freely from humility and which Christ calls on us today to practice is “forbearance with one another in love”: putting up patiently with the faults and foibles of our neighbors. As there are no two faces in the world exactly alike, so there are no two characters alike. Each one of us has his own peculiarities which make him uniquely himself. This is God’s way of brightening our lives or as the old saying has it: “variety is the spice of life”; things would be very monotonous if we all acted in the same way always. But there is no danger of that, the danger is that this variety can become a source of irritation to some at times. That is where forbearance, based on love, is important, it prevents clashes of character. If I love all my neighbors – all those with whom I come into contact, if I realize that it is my Christian duty to help them on the road to heaven, I shall find it easier to put up with apparent defects and faults in their characters.

We must remember: what may often appear to us to be serious lapses in Christian behavior on the part of some neighbors, may not be sinful, in the eyes of God who sees all the circumstances. But even if there is no possible excuse for sin we are not our neighbor’s judge. Do we have to condemn him or excommunicate him from us forever? Does not our Christian teaching tell us that we should do all in our power with true fraternal charity to show our erring brethren the error of their ways?

We are all on the road to heaven, there are lots of us, thank God, on that same road, and therefore some jostling and shoving are inevitable in such a crowd. God may be allowing that jostling and pushing so that the impatient Christian may yet overcome his impatience and be worthy of heaven. We are being trained, formed for heaven as we go along the road of life. All formation and training are a bit difficult, a bit trying. Let us accept this period of trial willingly because what we are striving for is worth all we can suffer – we are training to be saints for all eternity.

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 172 Through the centuries, in so many languages, cultures, peoples and nations, the Church has constantly confessed this one faith, received from the one Lord, transmitted by one Baptism, and grounded in the conviction that all people have only one God and Father.1 St. Irenaeus of Lyons, a witness of this faith, declared:

CCC 249 From the beginning, the revealed truth of the Holy Trinity has been at the very root of the Church’s living faith, principally by means of Baptism. It finds its expression in the rule of baptismal faith, formulated in the preaching, catechesis and prayer of the Church. Such formulations are already found in the apostolic writings, such as this salutation taken up in the Eucharistic liturgy: “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.”2

CCC 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.”3 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.”4

CCC 957 Communion with the saints. “It is not merely by the title of example that we cherish the memory of those in heaven; we seek, rather, that by this devotion to the exercise of fraternal charity the union of the whole Church in the Spirit may be strengthened. Exactly as Christian communion among our fellow pilgrims brings us closer to Christ, so our communion with the saints joins us to Christ, from whom as from its fountain and head issues all grace, and the life of the People of God itself”5:

We worship Christ as God’s Son; we love the martyrs as the Lord’s disciples and imitators, and rightly so because of their matchless devotion towards their king and master. May we also be their companions and fellow disciples!6

CCC 1454 The reception of this sacrament ought to be prepared for by an examination of conscience made in the light of the Word of God. The passages best suited to this can be found in the Ten Commandments, the moral catechesis of the Gospels and the apostolic letters, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the apostolic teachings.7

CCC 2219 Filial respect promotes harmony in all of family life; it also concerns relationships between brothers and sisters. Respect toward parents fills the home with light and warmth. “Grandchildren are the crown of the aged.”8 “With all humility and meekness, with patience, [support] one another in charity.”9

CCC 2790 Grammatically, “our” qualifies a reality common to more than one person. There is only one God, and he is recognized as Father by those who, through faith in his only Son, are reborn of him by water and the Spirit.10 The Church is this new communion of God and men. United with the only Son, who has become “the firstborn among many brethren,” she is in communion with one and the same Father in one and the same Holy Spirit.11 In praying “our” Father, each of the baptized is praying in this communion: “The company of those who believed were of one heart and soul.”12

1 Cf. Eph 4:4-6.

2 2 Cor 13:14; cf. 1 Cor 12:4-6; Eph 4:4-6.

3 LG 13 § 2.

4 Eph 4:3.

5 LG 50; cf. Eph 4:1-6.

6 Martyrium Polycarpi, 17: Apostolic Fathers II/3, 396.

7 Cf. Mt 5-7; Rom 12-15; 1 Cor 12-13; Gal 5; Eph 4-6; etc.

8 Prov 17:6.

9 Eph 4:2.

10 Cf. 1 Jn 5:1; Jn 3:5.

11 Rom 8:29; Cf. Eph 4:4-6.

12 Acts 4:32.

GOSPEL

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Jn 6:1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee.

A large crowd followed him,

because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick.

Jesus went up on the mountain,

and there he sat down with his disciples.

The Jewish feast of Passover was near.

When Jesus raised his eyes

and saw that a large crowd was coming to him,

he said to Philip,

“Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?”

He said this to test him,

because he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him,

“Two hundred days?’ wages worth of food would not be enough

for each of them to have a little.'”

One of his disciples,

Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him,

“There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish;

but what good are these for so many?”

Jesus said, “Have the people recline.”

Now there was a great deal of grass in that place.

So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks,

and distributed them to those who were reclining,

and also as much of the fish as they wanted.

When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples,

“Gather the fragments left over,

so that nothing will be wasted.”

So they collected them,

and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments

from the five barley loaves

that had been more than they could eat.

When the people saw the sign he had done, they said,

“This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.”

Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off

to make him king,

he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

http://www.usccb.org/bible/readings/072918.cfm

APPLICATION

Although Jesus had the intention of preparing the minds of the multitude for his discourse on the heavenly food which he would make next day, his principal motive in working this miracle was pity and compassion. He knew that they were hungry – they had been away from home all day and some for many days. They were willing to suffer this inconvenience but he did not want them to do so. Even though he knew there were some among them who would never accept him, and perhaps even some who would be among the rabble that demanded, his crucifixion on Good Friday; yet he made no distinction. He had compassion on them all.

This miracle should surely convince us, that Christ is interested in our daily needs too, just as he was interested in those of his contemporaries in Palestine. Our principal and only real purpose in life, is to be saved and Christ is ever ready to help us. However, we have first to travel through our earthly life so, of necessity, we have to take a passing interest in the affairs of this world. We have to provide for our earthly needs and for those of any others who may depend on us. For many, in fact for the vast majority of men, this has always been and will be a struggle against great odds. Here, too, Christ is ever ready to help us. He has a true interest in our progress through life and if we turn to him trustfully and sincerely, he will help us over our difficulties.

This does not mean that we can expect or demand a miracle whenever we find ourselves in difficulties. If, however, we are true to Christ and to the faith in our daily lives, he will find ways and means of freeing us from difficulties which would otherwise overcome us. If we look back over our past we may notice occasions when we were saved from grave difficulties by some unexpected intervention. We may not even have called on Christ to help us but he knew our needs and he answered our unspoken request. Those five thousand hungry people had not asked him for food, but he knew their needs. He knew too that their needs were caused by their desire to be in his presence – so he gave them what they had not thought of asking for. If we are loyal to him we, too, can trust that his mercy and power will be with us in our hour of need. He may not remove the cause of our difficulty. Remember St. Paul who had some bodily infirmity which he thought impeded his effectiveness as a missioner? Three times he pleaded with Christ to remove this infirmity, but Christ assured him : “my grace is sufficient for you.” He would prove all the more effectively that he was Christ’s Apostle by preaching in spite of that infirmity: “for my power is made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 7-9). Thus it may be that Christ will use the very difficulty from which we are suffering, to bring us and others into more intimate union with him. Many of the saints suffered great hardships and afflictions during their years on earth – these very afflictions were Christ’s gifts to them. Without these, and the virtues of patience, faith and trust which they had to practice, they might not be among God’s elect today.

We must rest assured then that Christ is intimately interested in our daily lives on earth. We must not expect that this interest of his will remove all shadows from our path. This would not be for our eternal good – and our eternal happiness is Christ’s first interest in us. It should also be our own first and principal interest too. It will help us, too, to bear with our lot, if we look about us and see so many others who are worse off, or at least as badly off as we are especially with regard to the snags of life. Christian charity will move us to help them; we may not be able to give them any material help, but we can help to lighten their load by showing our sincere interest in them and by offering words of comfort and consolation. This is the only charity that the poor have to offer to their fellow-sufferers, but if it is Christ-inspired its effects will reach to heaven.

Applications written by Fr. Kevin O’Sullivan O.F.M. and used with permission of Ignatius Press

CATECHISM OF THE CATHOLIC CHURCH (CCC)

CCC 439 Many Jews and even certain Gentiles who shared their hope recognized in Jesus the fundamental attributes of the messianic “Son of David”, promised by God to Israel.1 Jesus accepted his rightful title of Messiah, though with some reserve because it was understood by some of his contemporaries in too human a sense, as essentially political.2

CCC 549 By freeing some individuals from the earthly evils of hunger, injustice, illness and death,3 Jesus performed messianic signs. Nevertheless he did not come to abolish all evils here below,4 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.5

CCC 559 How will Jerusalem welcome her Messiah? Although Jesus had always refused popular attempts to make him king, he chooses the time and prepares the details for his messianic entry into the city of “his father David”.6 Acclaimed as son of David, as the one who brings salvation (Hosanna means “Save!” or “Give salvation!”), the “King of glory” enters his City “riding on an ass”.7 Jesus conquers the Daughter of Zion, a figure of his Church, neither by ruse nor by violence, but by the humility that bears witness to the truth.8 And so the subjects of his kingdom on that day are children and God’s poor, who acclaim him as had the angels when they announced him to the shepherds.9 Their acclamation, “Blessed be he who comes in the name of the Lord”,10 is taken up by the Church in the “Sanctus” of the Eucharistic liturgy that introduces the memorial of the Lord’s Passover.

CCC 1338 The three synoptic Gospels and St. Paul have handed on to us the account of the institution of the Eucharist; St. John, for his part, reports the words of Jesus in the synagogue of Capernaum that prepare for the institution of the Eucharist: Christ calls himself the bread of life, come down from heaven.11

1 Cf Mt 2:2; 9:27; 12:23; 15:22; 20:30; 21:9.15.

2 Cf. Jn 4:25-26; 6:15; 11:27; Mt 22:41-46; Lk 24:21.

3 Cf. Jn 6:5-15; Lk 19:8; Mt 11:5.

4 Cf. Lk 12 13-14; Jn 18:36.

5 Cf. Jn 8:34-36.

6 Lk 1:32; cf. Mt 21:1-11; Jn 6:15.

7 Ps 24:7-10; Zech 9:9.

8 Cf. Jn 18:37.

9 Cf. Mt 21:15-16; cf. Ps 8:3; Lk 19:38; 2:14.

10 Cf. Ps 118:26.

11 Cf. Jn 6.

BENEDICTUS

Joy, Mercy, Faith, Peace, Presence

If the loved one, love, the greatest gift of my life, is close to me, if I can be convinced that the one who loves me is close to me, if I can be convinced that the one who loves me is close to me, even in situations of suffering, the joy that remains in the depth of my heart is ever greater than all sufferings… Fraternal correction is a work of mercy. None of us can see himself well, see his short-comings well. So it is an act of love, to be a complement to one another, to help each other see one another better, and to correct each other. Of course, this great work of mercy, helping each other so that each one can really find his or her own integrity, and functionality as an instrument of God, demands great humility and love. Only if this comes from a humble heart, from someone who does not place himself above another, who does not consider himself better than the other, but only a jumble instrument mutually to help each other. Only if one feels this deep and true humility, if one feels that these words come from common love, from the collegial affection in which we wish to serve God together, can we in this way help each other with a great act of love… We can have the faith of the Church together, because with this faith we enter into the thoughts and feelings of the Lord… We are in inner peace, because being in the thought of Christ unites our real being… However, this is valid to the extent in which we really enter this presence which he gave us, in this gift which is already present in our being.

Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI

CLOSING PRAYER

A Prayer for the Virtue of Patience

Patience is a virtue of the Lord:

He awaits the return of His children.

Forgive my trespasses Oh Lord Jesus,

For many times have I tested You.

I deserved the wrath of Your hand,

But You saw greater things for me:

Your patience has been enormous!

Grant me a droplet of such endurance,

That I may abolish my impious impatience,

Refraining from using unpleasant words,

And always reflecting Your serenity.

Great is the Lord Jesus in His ways!

Catholic.org/prayers/1564

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About Benedicamus Domino

Let Us Bless The Lord - A Benedictine oblate's weekly study of the Catholic Church's Sunday Sacred Liturgy. I hope that families and friends will benefit from this as a prayerful way to prepare and actively participate in the holy sacrifice of the Mass.
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