Carry the gospel with you

Posted in christian, Christianity, inspirational, religion, scripture by Mike on January 7, 2014

Gospel reading of the day:

Mark 6:34-44

When Jesus saw the vast crowd, his heart was moved with pity for them, for they were like sheep without a shepherd; and he began to teach them many things. By now it was already late and his disciples approached him and said, “This is a deserted place and it is already very late. Dismiss them so that they can go to the surrounding farms and villages and buy themselves something to eat.” He said to them in reply, “Give them some food yourselves.” But they said to him, “Are we to buy two hundred days’ wages worth of food and give it to them to eat?” He asked them, “How many loaves do you have? Go and see.” And when they had found out they said, “Five loaves and two fish.” So he gave orders to have them sit down in groups on the green grass. The people took their places in rows by hundreds and by fifties. Then, taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he said the blessing, broke the loaves, and gave them to his disciples to set before the people; he also divided the two fish among them all. c1ad4d2136309981964e9e9acea5ef1c_w600They all ate and were satisfied. And they picked up twelve wicker baskets full of fragments and what was left of the fish. Those who ate of the loaves were five thousand men.

Reflection on the gospel reading: As C.S. Lewis once wrote about communion, “The very last thing I want to do is to unsettle in the mind of any Christian, whatever his denomination, the concepts–for him traditional–by which he finds it profitable to represent to himself what is happening when he receives the bread and wine. I could wish that no definitions had ever been felt to be necessary; and, still more, that none had been allowed to make divisions between churches.” The commemoration of the Lord’s Last Supper is a ritual that is common among Christian communities, whether they be Protestant, Catholic, or Orthodox. So however we understand what happens with the bread and wine when we commemorate the Lord’s supper, the narrative of the feeding of the multitudes has many elements analogous to the accounts of the institution of the commemoration as Matthew, Mark, Luke, and Paul describe it. For instance, we read in Matthew that the crowds are reclining, much as Jesus and his followers reclined as they ate the Passover meal before Jesus instituted communion. Matthew in today’s gospel says that Jesus took the loaves just as we read elsewhere that Jesus took bread at the Last Supper. In Matthew’s gospel, the disciples distribute the bread just as the Church continues to provide Christians with the meal. The narrative concludes with the observation that all ate until they were satisfied, 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, Matthew obliquely alludes to God’s immense bounty. In the very same way, down through the ages and to our own time, the Eucharist–however we may find it profitable to represent to ourselves what is happening when we receive the bread and wine–has fed and filled countless millions of believers.

Saint of the day: Pierre Étienne Morlanne was born in Metz, a city in northeast France, on May 22, 1772 and died in the same city January 7, 1862. Metz was then the largest-stronghold of France. The presence of so many soldiers sometimes caused disorder, and to remedy this situation, the bishop of Metz built a barracks in one of the squares in order to free the people of having to quarter soldiers in their own homes. Pierre Morlanne’s father was a surgeon who spent his free time caring for the needy of the city. His mother was born Pierre Étienne MorlanneJanet Anne Antoinette in 1735 in Metz. At the birth of their first child, Pierre’s father and mother were respectively 42 and 37 years. Born just two months after his parents’ marriage, Pierre Étienne Morlanne later in life sought to help single mothers–women who in their day and time were then ostracized by society. He also had a sister. Pierre Étienne’s father died when he was young, and he and his mother were very close to one another.

Raised by his devout mother, Pierre Étienne intended to study for the priesthood, but the French Revolution thwarted that plan when the new regime closed the seminaries. He ultimately went to study to become a surgeon. He served France in a medical position during its war with Austria, even as he continued to pursue his medical education. During his spare time, he served the medical needs of the indigent. It was while he was serving in Luxembourg, then annexed to France, that he discovered what was to become his life’s work when a young peasant woman sought him out to deliver her baby. Though he had no experience in delivering infants, he prayed that all would be well, and the mother and baby had no mishaps during the birth. When Pierre Étienne left the army, he decided to improve obstetrics, so he trained midwives. When Napoleon rose to power in France and the seminaries reopened, Pierre Étienne thought to pursue the vocation he had first desired, but the local bishop advised him to continue his work with the poor instead.

Pierre Étienne founded a religious association dedicated to training midwives; this organization became a religious congregation of women after his death. Later an organization of wealthy women was founded to provide material support to the organization that trained midwives. Pierre Étienne lived for a time in a working house and subsequently in a former monastery of the Trinitarians. In 1820, he founded a nursing home in the former convent of the Visitation. He worked with women who lived at the margins of society. He died just months before what would have been his 90th birthday. The cause for his beatification opened in 1989.

Spiritual reading: One is always surprised by awareness, for everything is always new. (Peter Balin)


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