Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 26, 2009

Lambert_Lombard_001Gospel reading of the day:

John 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.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Last Sunday, the Church read and reflected on the passage from the sixth chapter of the gospel of Mark where Jesus invited the apostles to go away with him to rest. The passage concluded with Jesus encountering a crowd. We read that Jesus’ heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. If we continued to read from the sixth chapter of Mark, we would have considered the feeding of the multitudes.

Indeed, this is the narrative that we have today, but rather than read the account that Mark’s gospel gives us, we are reading John’s report of the event. In fact, John’s account begins the Bread of Life Discourse in John’s Gospel, and for each of the next four Sundays, that is, until August 23, we will be reading parts of that discourse in John.

Several things in John’s account of the multiplication of the loaves are distinctive. Though all four evangelists narrate this event, only John tells us that the feast of Passover was near. Given the institution of the Eucharist and the Lord’s own passion and death at Passover, the reference to Passover is pregnant with meaning, especially in light of the nature of the events.

The narrative of the feeding of the multitudes has many elements analogous to the accounts of the institution of the Eucharist in Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul. For instance, we read in John that the crowds are reclining, much as Jesus and his followers reclined as they ate the Passover meal before Jesus instituted the Eucharist. John in today’s gospel says that Jesus took the loaves just as we read elsewhere that Jesus took bread at the Last Supper. John tells us that Jesus gave thanks; of course, the word Eucharist comes from the Greek word that means to give thanks. In John’s gospel, Jesus himself distributes the bread: Jesus himself is the source of the meal.

The narrative concludes with the observation that all ate until they were full, and that when they were done, 12 wicker baskets were necessary to collect all the remains of the meal. In this element of the narrative, John alludes to God’s immense bounty. In the very same way, down through the ages and to our own time, the Eucharist has fed and filled countless millions of believers.

Finally, it is in this feeding the multitude that the crowd recognizes who Jesus is: that is, the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world. And so it is for us in the Eucharist that we receive of the gift of recognizing who Jesus is.

Spiritual reading: Why can we not be content with an ordinary, secret, personal happiness that does not need to be explained or justified? We feel guilty if we are not happy in some oldpunjabwomanpublicly approved way, if we do not imagine that we are meeting some standard of happiness that is recognized by all. God gives us the gift and the capacity to make our own happiness out of our own situation. And it is not hard to be happy, simply by accepting what is within reach, and making of it what we can. But if we do this, and I find that I do, we still wonder if there is not something wrong. Are we getting something if there is not something wrong. Are we getting something that others cannot have (a private and personal happiness!)? Obviously my happiness is not somebody else’s – until I share it. And in sharing it I am happier than I was before. (Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander by Thomas Merton)

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