Jul 28, 2018
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
"It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover", that's what John tells us just before he describes the event of Jesus miraculously feeding the multitudes. Why is this detail of the time it took place important? It's a clue. When Christ does anything, it is always planned, it's never left to chance. He will not force his way through the events surrounding him, nor will he be forced into doing anything under pressure.
Our Lord always makes his move always at a certain time within a particular context of his own choosing, when something's happening around us. It maybe where we happen to be at a certain time, it could be not until a certain person crosses our path. Perhaps we first have to be our weakest, maybe our strongest. Maybe, it's when a particular event surfaces in our life, in our family life or even in society - only then might God provide a miracle in our lives, waiting for the right context of his own choosing, conducive to his needs (not necessarily ours) - the the grace of God may stir.
In the event of the miraculous feeding of the multitudes, we are told in one little line by the Evangelist, "It was shortly before the Jewish feast of Passover". Why was this necessary? Was this so that St. John could help the Bible scholar better place Christ's life and ministry in chronological order? Not likely.
Instead, Christ's chooses to give us a sign in a context, a backdrop, an event already happening. In this case, the Jewish people were actively preparing for the passover remembrance. How did they do it? They prepared themselves by acts of remembering and reflecting about the great things God had done in ages past for them as a people. They were recalling how they had journeyed through the desert to a Promised Land of milk and honey. They recalled how in the desert they were tired, hungry and at times without hope that they would ever see their journey's end. But then, out of the silence, God came to their rescue. God provided them bread from heaven. He saved them, not with food for thought, but actual food for the journey. He gave them manna, bread from heaven. He gave them what they needed at the right time.
In our own hunger to seek a sign or a miracle at times from God, often in times of uncertainty, we may find ourselves desperately calling out to God for a quick fix to a pressing problem. At other times, we might try to force his hand - promise him this if he does that. Other times, we expect him to act in our favor because we have done so much, prayed so long, sacrificed so much. Our Lord already knows the circumstances of our lives. Often he will act only within a context of his own choosing, not to prove to us that he is God. He is not the God who pulls rabbits out of hats! He helps us, when the time is right, to appreciate the bigger picture of spiritual lives, our hunger and his providence over all time and creation.
Notice also in the Gospel we have just heard - it was not the hungry followers who cried out to him for food. Nor, in this event, did his disciples try to convince him that now would be a good time for a miracle. Before ever a word from anyone, Christ himself takes the initiative at the right time. Why? Because, unknown to everyone else, out of his heart, which is pure compassion and mercy, our Lord will offer to feed us in the proper context, when he hopes the context will not be lost, so that we can see our whole lives and our life's journey in the bigger picture of his plan of salvation.
Now, shortly before we approach the altar of the Passover Lamb, to be fed by God, let us never be weary of using our time leading up to Holy Communion to see our lives and our life's journey in a greater context than just showing up to “go to” Mass.
So far, we have gathered in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. We have hopefully prepared ourselves calling to mind our sins and the circumstances of our failures in discipleship, calling out for mercy.
Next, we have had the opportunity to see our lives in the context of God’s Glory in the highest, his victory and power over all creation.
We have just been invited to hear the Word of God speaking to us in the circumstances of our lives. And soon we will allow ourselves to weave it all together from the perspective of our Catholic faith handed down throughout the generations when each of us today as we say, I believe.
And before we ourselves begin our immediate preparation to celebrate the Passover sacrifice of the Mass, we will look around at this hungry world, our community and our own lives to ask God to feed us. We do this now, in the context of our journey to the Promised Land, into his heavenly Kingdom where he lives and reigns forever.
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