Reflection on the DAILY SCRIPTURES can be found at the following links:
Reflect on the Sunday Scriptures with:
GOSPEL AND REFLECTION
SEVENTEENTH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME YEAR B
First Reading – 2 Kgs 4:42-44
They will eat and have some left over.
A man came from Baal-shalishah, bringing Elisha, the man of God, bread from the first-fruits, twenty barley loaves and fresh grain in the ear. ‘Give it to the people to eat,’ Elisha said. But his servant replied, ‘How can I serve this to a hundred men?’ ‘Give it to the people to eat’ he insisted ‘for the Lord says this, “They will eat and have some left over.”’ He served them; they ate and had some over, as the Lord had said.
Ps 144:10-11, 15-18. R. v.16
(R.) The hand of the Lord feeds us;
he answers all our needs.
Second Reading – Eph 4:1-6
There is one body, one Lord, one faith, one baptism.
I, the prisoner in the Lord, implore you to lead a life worthy of your vocation. Bear with one another charitably, in complete selflessness, gentleness and patience. Do all you can to preserve the unity of the Spirit by the peace that binds you together. There is one Body, one Spirit, just as you were all called into one and the same hope when you were called. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism, and one God who is Father of all, through all and within all.
A great prophet has appeared among us;
God has visited his people.
Gospel – Jn 6:1-15
He distributed to those who were seated as much as they wanted.
Jesus went off to the other side of the Sea of Galilee – or of Tiberias – and a large crowd followed him, impressed by the signs he gave by curing the sick. Jesus climbed the hillside, and sat down there with his disciples. It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover.
Looking up, Jesus saw the crowds approaching and said to Philip, ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people to eat?’ He only said this to test Philip; he himself knew exactly what he was going to do. Philip answered, ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.’ One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter’s brother, said, ‘There is a small boy here with five barley loaves and two fish; but what is that between so many?’ Jesus said to them, ‘Make the people sit down.’ There was plenty of grass there, and as many as five thousand men sat down. Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks and gave them out to all who were sitting ready; he then did the same with the fish, giving out as much as was wanted. When they had eaten enough he said to the disciples, ‘Pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.’ So they picked them up, and filled twelve hampers with scraps left over from the meal of five barley loaves. The people, seeing this sign that he had given, said, ‘This really is the prophet who is to come into the world.’ Jesus, who could see they were about to come and take him by force and make him king, escaped back to the hills by himself.
The gospel readings for the next two weeks are taken from John 6, a section of the gospel that focuses on food and related themes: on hungry people; on the need for food/bread; on food/bread as metaphors for life. Bread has been the staple food for millennia in bible lands. To be without bread is to lack the very basics of existence, and that is how it is for so many in our world. Even the impoverished in the so-called “first world” know what it is like to be without the means of subsistence in a world of plenty. The present cycle of readings confronts us with questions about our own lifestyle, our exploitation of earth’s precious resources, and our capacity to make a positive change in the lives of those whose access to the fruits of our earth is much more limited than ours.
In John’s account of the feeding of the 5000, the crowds keep following Jesus because they see the “signs” he works among the sick. The Johannine Jesus consistently tries to lead the people beyond a form of discipleship that is simply based on seeing the signs that he works. The inadequacy of the crowd’s response on this occasion becomes clear towards the end of the reading.
Both place and time function powerfully in the story. The “mountain” place evokes the giving of the Law to Moses on Mt Sinai. For the crowds, Jesus is the prophet like Moses who points to a way of satisfying hunger in the wilderness of life. The time is Passover, drawing into the narrative the passing over of the Israelites from slavery in Egypt to the freedom of the desert and ultimately of the land where they could worship their God. This story is about the liberation that God brings through the agency of Jesus.
Jesus demonstrates that the answer to the suffering of the people, their liberation, is to be found in their care for each other. If they simply take the time to sit down together, discover the riches in their midst, give thanks, and distribute what they have, they may find they have more than they need. They must gather up the fragments, the “more-than-enough”, so that nothing will be lost and others might benefit from their sharing. Again, we are reminded of those in our world who have access to health care and vaccines and those who do not, of those who have financial support at this time and those who do not.
Although the people partially understand Jesus’ identity and teaching, their ultimate response is misdirected, even violent: they want to take him by force and make him king. He leaves them and returns to the mountain alone. We so often seek spectacular solutions to our problems. It may be that we too need to sit down together, on the grass or wherever, and discover the wealth we have at our disposal to satisfy the hunger in our world. That is what it means to be a Eucharistic people.
Sr Veronica Lawson rsm
© The scriptural quotations are taken from the Jerusalem Bible, published and copyright 1966, 1967 and 1968 by Darton Longman and Todd Ltd and Doubleday & Co Inc, and used by permission of the publishers. The English translation of the Psalm Responses, the Alleluia and Gospel Verses, and the Lenten Gospel Acclamations, and the Titles, Summaries, and Conclusion of the Readings, from the Lectionary for Mass © 1997, 1981, 1968, International Committee on English in the Liturgy, Inc. All rights reserved.