Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on July 31, 2011

Gospel reading of the day:

Matthew 14:13-21

When Jesus heard of the death of John the Baptist, he withdrew in a boat to a deserted place by himself. The crowds heard of this and followed him on foot from their towns. When he disembarked and saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, and he cured their sick. When it was evening, the disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already late; dismiss the crowds so that they can go to the villages and buy food for themselves.” He said to them, “There is no need for them to go away; give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Five loaves and two fish are all we have here.” Then he said, “Bring them here to me,” and he ordered the crowds to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, who in turn gave them to the crowds. They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over–twelve wicker baskets full. Those who ate were about five thousand men, not counting women and children.

Reflection on the gospel reading: Of course, we all know that there are many stories in the gospels. A lot of them, like John’s account of the transformation of water into wine at the wedding feast in Cana, we read in just one gospel. Some other stories appear in two gospels, and others in three gospels. But there is no miracle story but this one concerning the feeding of the multitudes that appears in its fullness in all four gospels. It would seem that when Christians in the first decades after Jesus’ death and resurrection gathered together to talk about the things that Jesus did and taught, they must have repeated this particular story very often.

Doubtless, there are lots of reasons for this. One may be simply their surprise, unknowing, and awe before what Jesus did. Sometimes we repeat stories over and over to try and figure out what happened. None of the four gospels actually says that Jesus multiplied the loaves and fishes, though the fact that the story appears in all four gospels seems to suggest that the early Church believed he did perform exactly such a miracle. When early Christians talked about the event, it may have been a way to try and figure out exactly what did happen. Clearly, they didn’t know exactly what happened, because none of the accounts explains the “mechanics” of it.

Another reason for the popularity of the tale doubtless was the natural and relentless human interest in food. We all have to eat, and here in a time of scarcity in human history was a story about the bounty of God. Jesus steps into a situation of need and resolves it, not unlike when the wedding feast ran out of wine, he stepped in to supply wine to mitigate the want. But he doesn’t do it with meager provisions; instead, he satisfies all the hunger of everyone present, and the superabundance leaves an excess after each person already is full.

Another reason the story may have fascinated the members of the early Church was its deeper meaning. By the time that the evangelists wrote the gospels, the Church had come together every Sunday for 30 or 40 to 70 years or more to celebrate the Eucharist in the breaking of the bread. As it reminisced about what Jesus did to feed the multitudes, the Church saw in this event an anticipation of their own liturgical practice. Notice how closely the words of this passage, and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to the disciples, conform to the account of Jesus’ actions at the Last Supper and the narrative we recite in the Eucharistic Prayer. It would seem almost indisputable that when the Church struggled to understand the meaning of the feeding of the multitudes, its members believed the event instructed them about the meaning of the way they already had worshiped for several generations.

As we reflect on this gospel passage today, various conclusions are possible for us. At one level, the account reminds us that through our stories, God has given us a tool to understand. At another level, it reminds us that events often mean different things to different people who interpret the meaning of an event in various layers. But much more directly, it reminds us that God knows what we need and will satisfy it in ways that fill us with wonder. We can be confident that God is fulfilling God’s promise to be present to us as we make our way.

Spiritual reading: Principle and Foundation–Human beings are created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by means of doing this to save their souls. The other things on the face of the earth are created for the human beings, to help them in the pursuit of the end of which they are created. From this it follows that we ought to use these things to the extent that they help us toward our end, and free ourselves from them to the extent that they hinder us from it. To attain this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things, in regard to everything which is left our free will and is not forbidden. Consequently, on our own part we ought not to seek health rather than sickness, wealth rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, a long life rather than short 250px-Societasiesusealone, and so on in all other matters. Rather, we ought to desire and choose only that which is more conducive to the end for which are created. (Spiritual Exercises by St. Ignatius of Loyola)

A Prayer of Ignatius of Loyola: Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will. All I have and call my own. Whatever I have or hold, you have given to me. I restore it all to you and surrender it wholly to be governed under your will. Give me only your love and grace and I am rich enough and ask for nothing more.

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  1. […] Cacina July 31, 2011 especially the Ignation connection […]

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