Pastoral Sharings: "Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time"

WeeklyMessage Homily from Father Alex McAllister SDS 
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Posted for July 26, 2015

All through this particular year we take our readings from 
the Gospel of Mark but because it is much shorter than 
the Gospels of Matthew and Luke it is sometimes 
supplemented by extracts from the Gospel of John. This 
is the case with the next five Sundays when we consider Christ’s extended discourse on the Bread of Life. We begin this week with the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. 

We are all very familiar with this wonderful miracle and how Christ transformed the five barley loaves and two fish into sufficient food to feed five thousand people and how he ended up with twelve hampers full of left overs. 

This, however, is no ordinary miracle. Most of Jesus’ miracles were healings or exorcisms and a couple of times raising people from the dead; but there were other miracles such as changing water into wine, walking on the water, the miraculous catch of fish and the calming of the storm. 

But this miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand is unique because it has specific overtones of the Eucharist. And it is given particular prominence here in the Gospel of John which does not have an actual celebration of the Eucharist at the Last Supper. Instead it has the account of the Washing of the Feet and the long Farewell Discourse given by Jesus. 

There are several aspects of the story that link directly with the Eucharist. The first is that it took place at the time of the Passover, exactly one year before Christ’s death on the Cross. So there is a specific connection with the time when it occurred, exactly a year before the Last Supper itself. 

Another link is that it involves bread which is distributed among the people as is also done at the Eucharist. This bread feeds our bodies but in the case of the Eucharist it more importantly feeds our souls. 

Then there is the sequence of actions which is similar to that of the four actions which comprise the Eucharist: take, bless, break, give. These are the four parts of the mass: take as in the Offertory, bless as in the Eucharistic Prayer, break as the priest does at the Lamb of God and give as at the distribution of Holy Communion. 

In the account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand we clearly see how Jesus took the bread and fish from the boy and this represents the offertory where the priest receives the gifts. Then we see how Jesus gave thanks; this is the same as the blessing that occurs in the mass. The Greek word for giving thanks is eucharisteo which is the very same word used for the mass, the Eucharist. 

There is no explicit reference in the text to Jesus actually breaking the bread on this occasion but he must have done so in order for it to be distributed among the people. And then there is the giving out of the bread with its direct parallel in the mass of the distribution of Holy Communion. 

We can see then some very direct connections with the Eucharist and in the coming weeks in our Gospel readings we will see how Jesus carefully explained all this to his disciples. For example next week’s Gospel concludes with the statement, ‘I am the bread of life, he who comes to me will never be hungry, he who believes in me will never thirst.’ You couldn’t get a more direct reference to the Eucharist than that. 

There is also one other thing to be taken into account and that is the messianic expectation of the people. They have been following Jesus around for quite some time and they are growing in their understanding of his message and his significance, even though they don’t always get it quite right. 

The people have come to realize that Jesus is the Messiah and this is given expression in the reading today when they say, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ The people then decide to take him by force and make him King, but Jesus flees into the hills.

There is as we know a messianic dimension to the Eucharist. It is both a sign and a promise of the Kingdom of God. In the Eucharist we acknowledge the Kingship of Jesus, we acknowledge too his presence among us and by receiving his body and blood we are given a pledge of life eternal.

So we can see that there are a great many links between this account of the Feeding of the Five Thousand and the mass, the Holy Eucharist that we celebrate today.

I’d just like to point out one other little detail in this fascinating story and that is the generosity of the boy. This little lad just happened to be there with his five barley loaves and two fish. We don’t know what he was doing with them although he was probably taking advantage of the great crowd gathered there to sell his food to them.

I’m sure that his father was waiting for him to come home with a few coins from the sale of this small amount of spare food. There is not much mention of the boy except for the fact that Andrew points out that he has some loaves and a few fish.

Then the story simply says that Jesus took them; but Jesus would never have taken them by force and there is no mention of money so it seems logical that the boy generously offered the loaves and the fish to Jesus.

He probably expected to get a scolding from his father when he got home with no money for the family. But nevertheless the boy freely hands over the loaves and fishes to Jesus. It is therefore a simple act of generosity on which this great miracle is based.

And generosity we know is at the very heart of the Eucharist; the generous love of our great God for us, the generous sacrifice of Jesus our Saviour on the Cross of Calvary for the redemption of our sins. And generosity is an important element of our relationship with each other as we gather to celebrate God’s love in the Eucharist.

We share the sign of peace together and we all share in the one bread and we feel the unity that binds together all Christians. Leaving the Church we feel especially benevolent towards each other and are generous with our time and our gifts.

You can imagine on the Day of the Resurrection that young boy arriving in heaven to meet Jesus and saying, ‘I’m the boy with the five loaves and the two fish.’ What a welcome he would receive as being the one with such a generous heart that enabled Christ to perform such a wonderful miracle, one which would become such a teaching opportunity for the whole world.

We are happy for him, but we should also be happy for ourselves when we too show a generous heart to our brothers and sisters in the human family.

Digest of Articles from Catholics Blogs and Websites
July 26, 2015

Seventeenth Sunday: John 6 Part 1 and the First Supper

This Sunday we begin a five week focus on the 6th chapter of the Gospel of John. We do this every three years, just as we repeat all the Sunday readings every three years. That the Church should spend five weeks on John 6 demonstrates that this is one of the most important sections of the Gospels.

Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

John 6: 1–15

Gospel Summary

Because of the signs Jesus was performing on the sick, a large crowd followed him as he went up on a mountain with his disciples. When Jesus saw the crowd, he said, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” Philip answered, in effect, that he did not know. Another disciple said to Jesus, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus had all the people recline. Then he took the bread, gave thanks, and gave it to the people, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. After the banquet, the disciples gathered twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that were left over. Since the people wanted to carry him off and make him king, Jesus withdrew to be alone on the mountain.

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B—July 26, 2015

Jesus today provides a miraculous meal for the crowd following Him, an event that looks back in history and forward to the future. How?

Gospel (Read Jn 6:1-15)

St. John tells us that near the Sea of Galilee, a large crowd was following Jesus, because they had seen Him miraculously cure the sick. Although He and His disciples “went up on the mountain,” the crowd pursued them. Then St. John inserts a detail that seems extraneous to the story: “The Jewish feast of Passover was near.” The action here has nothing to do with Passover—or does it? Why does St. John place it within a Passover context? The only possible relationship between this story about people eating and Passover is that both feature a meal. Surely St. John wants us to make that connection, keeping it in mind as the story unfolds.

The Motive for Hope

Presence of God – Make me understand well, O Lord, that my hope must be founded on You, on Your infinite merciful love.


If we had to base our hope on our own merits and on the amount of grace we possess, it would be very insecure, because we cannot be certain that we are in the state of grace, nor can we be certain about our good works which are always so full of defects. But our hope is sure because it is founded, not on ourselves, but on God, on His infinite goodness, on His salvific will which desires “all men to be saved” (1 Timothy 2:4), and on His sanctifying will that wants us not only to be saved, but also to be saints: “This is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thessalonians 4:3).

How the “Our Father” Can Change Your Life

What is one of the biggest problems in your life and in mine?

We don’t treat other people as we should. We treat them as objects of our lust, workers to fulfill our wishes, servants to obey our commands.

Our relationship problems, our marriage problems, our family problems, our work problems, our neighborhood problems, our parish problem are all because we don’t treat others with the respect, honor, love and courtesy they deserve.

Jesus: The Joy That You Seek

“It is Jesus that you seek when you dream of happiness…” – St. John Paul II

It is the feast of the Passover. Jerusalem is packed with thousands upon thousands of pilgrims from all over Israel, and in fact, all over the world. They come to celebrate God’s deliverance of his people from oppression and slavery in Egypt. It is a joyful time, the high point of the Jewish year.

Jesus, too, is at the feast, but his heart is heavy. He knows the Cross awaits. He is surrounded by his disciples, loved ones, and no doubt many curious admirers clamoring for a closer view of the great prophet everyone is talking about.

Thank God For Tradition

When I became a Catholic at 19, I was overjoyed to discover a wealth of wisdom and teaching on prayer, spirituality and the faith. It was like unlocking a door to a vast library of  hidden information. This discovery was information I could count on, I could trust as authentic, tried and true. This treasure trove of tradition had passed the test of time, the test of the saints and the experts.  I realized as a Protestant who relied solely on Sacred Scripture, I had basically thrown out 2,000 years of  tradition and the faith experiences of those who had gone before me. I was surprised to learn the Bible itself urges us to follow oral traditions:

2 Thessalonians 2:15
So then, brethren, stand firm and hold to the traditions which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us.

How to Be a Better Disciple

There is a section of Luke’s Gospel known as the Travel Narrative. In this section, Jesus and his disciples journey to Jerusalem where redemption will occur and the Church will be born. St. Luke uses nearly ten chapters (9:51-19:27) to record this journey to Jerusalem.

Along the way, Jesus prepares his disciples for the work to which he has called them.  These lessons for discipleship offer each of us practical help for living the faith day in and day out. St. Luke packs important principles of discipleship in the opening eleven verses of the narrative.

When it Hurts: How to Share the Catholic Faith with Non-Catholics

This is for the broken hearted, those men and women who have risked sharing the faith only to be psychoanalyzed, slighted, even shamed. God knows sometimes you just need a box of Kleenex and a few hours before the Blessed Sacrament. Or a cup of coffee with your parish priest. Or a big bear hug from a friend. Or a word of encouragement like this one. This is a tiny thank you card to all the Catholics who risk telling the story of Jesus and his Church.

Your tears are watering God’s garden. Jesus wants you to share the Catholic faith with everybody, even Christians who are not yet Catholic, even though it’s testing friendships, tearing your family apart, and making you feel like a Grinch. Do not lose heart (2 Cor. 4:16). The Holy Spirit works best through tears.

Is it Harmful to Focus on the Devil?

Over the past several months we have been diving into the many tactics of the devil and have sought to better understand how Satan works in our world. While it is beneficial to know the enemy’s schemes, we shouldn’t end there. There is a great risk involved if we become too engrossed in the activity of the devil and start to believe that Satan has more control over the world than God does.

Man Was Possessed by God in Eden

Before the first man was settled in the Garden of Eden something extraordinary happened to him.

Here’s how it’s recorded in Genesis: The Lord God then took the man and settled him in the garden of Eden, to cultivate and care for it (2:15).

God took man and put him the garden. At first, it sounds pretty straightforward. But pause for a moment on the first clause: The Lord God then took the man. Think about that for a second. What does it mean to be taken by God? Does it mean anything more than the literal act of God picking up the first man and placing him in the garden?

What you should do when your prayers aren’t answered

St Teresa of Avila once said: “You pay God a great compliment by asking great things of Him.”

Those words came to mind recently when I read an account of a blind man who implored Padre Pio to restore his sight “in one eye”. The man went away, and came back to Padre Pio a few weeks later saying that he had indeed regained sight in one eye. On hearing this, Padre Pio exclaimed: “Ah! Only from one eye? Let that be a lesson to you. Never put limitations on God. Always ask for the big grace!”

Breaking News: We Are All Going to Die!

This just in . . .Everyone in the whole world will one day die!

The only exception to this inevitable event is if we are alive at the end of the world, on the last day, when the dead rise first, and then the real Christians are caught up in the air to meet and greet Jesus Christ at the Second Coming.

So many people today live as if they will never die. They never go to Church, and they never try to meditate on the Passion of Jesus Christ. They entertain themselves constantly with pornography, gourmet food, movies, TV, and computer games, etc. They never pick up the Word of God and read it, much less study it and meditate on it. What kind of evil place might these people wind up in 10, 20, 30, 50, or 80 years from now, forever, unless they repent?

Well Said: A Good Prayer for Many Sad Hearts

When my friends are in sorrow and trouble, or even when they are just without spirit, I like to pray, “Jesus, they have no wine,” or “Mary, they have no wine.” It is a good prayer for many sad hearts today.

Dorothy Day, On Pilgrimage

What Does it Mean “To Stand Naked Before God?”

To stand naked before God is to stand before God as Adam and Eve stood before the Fall; before they realized they were naked and hid themselves from Him out of shame. The Church teaches, and many believe, that God is all-knowing. He knows the inner depths of our hearts, a sacred realm hardly known to us, despite our best efforts at self-awareness. It is from the heart that comes “evil thoughts, murders, adultery, [and] fornication” as well as “the springs of life” (Matthew 15:19, Proverbs 4:23). We can learn through the Psalms to pray from the depths of our heart, “Out of the depths, I cry out to you, O Lord;” the heart is an infinite depth as St. Macarios, the 4th century Syrian monk, teaches (Psalm 130:1).

Hell? What’s That?

Someone once asked the famous mystic Padre Pio, what he thought of modern people who didn’t believe in hell. His blunt reply was, “They will believe in hell when they get there.”

Must we believe in hell? Surely, when faced with Auschwitz, Hiroshima, the Boko Haram, and the barbarians of ISIS, the question should be, “Is it possible not to believe in hell?” I don’t simply refer to the fact that concentration camps were a kind of hell on earth. Instead I wonder how one can deny the existence of a place of severe and eternal punishment when faced with Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, murderous jihadists, and African soldiers who chop off little girls’ hands for fun.”

Three Biblical Arguments for the Authority of the Church

My friend Al Kresta (a Catholic radio talk-show host and author) once noted that in C. S. Lewis’s famous book Mere Christianity, which was an ecumenical effort to find things that all Christians shared in common, and the “nonnegotiables” of Christianity, a central, crucial doctrine of two of the three major divisions of Christianity was omitted.

The great Anglican apologist did not include a doctrine of the Church as a binding authority in the Christian life, which is a belief strongly held by Catholics and Orthodox, but formally denied by Protestants, who hold that only Scripture is an infal­lible authority (what is known as sola Scriptura, “Bible alone”).

Appreciating the Office of Readings

The American novelist Saul Bellow once spoke about “the tyranny of perceptions,” those evanescent opinions that daily flood our society and divide it. He was concerned that these were being substituted for basic reasoning.

As we know from the work of Aquinas, forming the image of something in our minds is not the final step in the process of knowing. Rather, there is something more that we have to actually do and that is compare the idea in our minds with the reality that we are confronting. So forming an image of what happened at a police-involved shooting, for example, is not worth anything unless it agrees with the facts. Those would be the facts uncovered over time by the medical examiner and the other experts.

Similarly, when most people work with ideas about the Church, they are statistically more often under the tyranny of some half-formed perceptions rather than fully-formed ideas that actually represent the real Church and its teaching.

Jewish Man Who Survived Nazi Germany Is Now Rescuing Christians From ISIS

LONDON — George Weidenfeld was barely 18 when Nazi forces occupied his homeland of Austria in 1938. He may not have lived to see his 95th birthday — celebrated this year — if not for the selflessness and generosity of Christians during World War II.

Weidenfeld was one of countless other Jewish youths who were evacuated from Nazi-occupied countries and resettled in England through Christian-led initiatives similar to the famous Kindertransport train program. When he arrived in England, Weidenfeld said Christians fed him, clothed him and supported his resettlement.

Because Jesus Said Plenty About Marriage, and Other Inconvenient Stuff Too…UPDATED

Hey y’all. Didn’t you know that Jesus didn’t say nothin about homosexuality in the Bible? True story. You ain’t gonna find Our Lord say that particular word nowheres in the Scriptures. It’s like he never heard of that situation. Heck, everbody knows that if Jesus didn’t say it, it don’t exist. Right?

Of course, Jesus said plenty about marriage, and I’m here to tell y’all, it’s damned inconvenient to the spirit of the age nowadays. ‘Cause there ain’t nothin worse than Jesus saying nothin about something than him saying somethin and then leavin out all the good stuff that we want to hear. Can I get an Amen? ‘Cause when Jesus talks about marriage, he only mentions that it’s between a man and a woman. From since always, if you can believe that he’d know such a thing from that far back.

Under the Scapular

As I was preparing to enter the Order of Preachers, I asked my Dominican confessor a question: should I still wear my brown scapular after I became a Dominican?

I started wearing the scapular when, as a high school student, I rediscovered the faith I had been raised in.  I immediately looked for some sort of sensible sign that would express and nourish my new devotion—and I found the brown scapular that I had been enrolled with in preparation for my first communion.

The brown scapular was given to St. Simon Stock from the Bl. Virgin Mary for the entire Carmelite Order.  Mary’s special promise is that whoever wears it will be preserved from the fires of hell.

We Must Defend the Babies With Greater Strength and Strategy

Cecile Richards, president of Planned Parenthood Federation of America, issued a video statement concerning her organization’s selling of aborted-baby body parts.

Pro-life people know that these body parts came from babies who were murdered by Planned Parenthood. They watch the video of one of the doctors who does this murdering, chomping on her salad and swilling down her wine as she discusses the best way to kill the child while preserving its organs for sale.

This is ghastly, grisly business. It is grotesque.

Take Amazing 360° Tour of St. Peter’s in Vatican City From Your Chair

This 360-degree view allows you to see the splendor of St. Peter’s Basilica on your computer, tablet, or mobile device. Use the toolbar to shift your view or zoom in. On a tablet or mobile device, just hold it up or turn it around to pan.

St. Peter’s Basilica is one of the most spectacular churches in the world. Although some may confuse it for the “mother church” of Roman Catholics, it isn’t even a cathedral because it’s not the seat of the pope, who is also the bishop of Rome. That distinction belongs to the Archbasilica of St. John Lateran. But because of its size, grandeur, and location within Vatican City, papal authorities use the church for numerous ceremonies. Its capacity is enormous—it can hold 20,000 seated worshippers or 60,000 standing.

Seek Forgiveness from Christ in Confession

We humans can be a bit fickle sometimes. What we choose to do with our time often depends directly on how the people and places with which we associate ourselves make us feel. If we don’t feel welcome in a place, we probably don’t stay long.

If we try a place or organization out on the suggestion of other people, but never really learn or understand what it’s all about, we’re also likely out the door before long. Likewise, if we devote ourselves fully to a place or organization, only to experience betrayal at the hands of that organization, surely it won’t take long for us to find a new home.

Why are we forgetting to venerate the Precious Blood?

As Catholics, we are depriving ourselves and our loved ones by not venerating the Precious Blood with more fervour and sincere reverence. Now that we are in July, the month dedicated to the Most Precious Blood, we must immerse ourselves in the awesome truth that offering the Precious Blood is a powerful means of interceding for the souls of loved ones, and for the souls of people who have wronged us.

On the Cross, Our Lord shed His Blood to atone for our sins. We owe our redemption to Our Lord’s bloody sacrifice, ‘For this is my blood of the new covenant which is shed for the many, for the remission of sins’ (Matthew 26:28).

My Number One Parenting Tip

A friend of mine came to visit last week with her small army of young children. We chatted while I slathered peanut butter and jelly on slices of wheat bread and threw them at the masses. Every five minutes, we filled requests for cups of water and changed diapers and broke up scuffles over broken toys. In between the commotion she asked,

“How do you discipline your kids?”

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