Homily for the seventeenth Sunday of the year - Year B - Jn. 6:1-15


by

Father Daniel Meynen
 
 

"After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand.


"Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, 'How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?' This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, 'Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.' One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?' Jesus said, 'Make the people sit down.' Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand. Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, 'Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.' So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten.


"When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!' Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself."





Homily:


"After this Jesus went to the other side of the Sea of Galilee, which is the Sea of Tiberias. And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples. Now the Passover, the feast of the Jews, was at hand."


In the account of the life of Jesus, the Gospel we read today follows the passage of Saint Mark on which we commented last Sunday. Jesus has just taught, at length, this crowd of people eager to hear him and to see him, and especially to see him perform a miracle. "And a multitude followed him, because they saw the signs which he did on those who were diseased. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there sat down with his disciples." Now, these people had been there a long time, and Jesus does not want to send them away without having given them something to eat, for fear that the journey home would be too great a hardship for them. For the Master, the great Prophet, it will be the opportunity to perform a very great miracle: that of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes. There will be another opportunity a short time afterwards, and then Saint Mark will record in his Gospel the following words of the Savior: "In those days, when again a great crowd had gathered, and they had nothing to eat, he called his disciples to him, and said to them, 'I have compassion on the crowd, because they have been with me now three days, and have nothing to eat; and if I send them away hungry to their homes, they will faint on the way; and some of them have come a long way.' " (Mk. 8:1-3)


"Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, Jesus said to Philip, 'How are we to buy bread, so that these people may eat?' This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. Philip answered him, 'Two hundred denarii would not buy enough bread for each of them to get a little.' "


Jesus truly intends to feed this entire crowd of people who took the trouble to listen to his teachings: after giving them the Bread of Heaven, which is his Word, Jesus will give them the bread of the earth. But Jesus wants the order in which this takes place to be well-understood by his disciples: first Heaven, then the earth. Moreover, the Master had already said it and repeated it: "Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well." (Mt. 6:33) Jesus wants his disciples, those who must carry on his mission until the end of time, to be truly convinced of the action of God who takes care of his own and of all their needs, provided that they seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, the righteousness which is that of God, and which, through faith, makes all Christians righteous in the sole Righteous One, Christ.


Philip is tested in this way by the Master, and along with him, all the other disciples as well. All of them search among the members the crowd to find someone who had something to eat... Evidently, all the disciples seem to carry out what Jesus had ordered them to do, namely, to feed the crowd themselves. Although Saint John does not report it in his Gospel, the three synoptic evangelists agree in saying that Jesus had given this command to his disciples: "Give them something to eat yourselves." (Mk. 6:37 - cf. Mt. 14:16; Lk. 9:13) Without any doubt, the disciples obeyed the Master: they sought first the kingdom of God and his righteousness! And they found someone who had five barley loaves and two fish...


"One of his disciples, Andrew, Simon Peter's brother, said to him, 'There is a lad here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what are they among so many?' Jesus said, 'Make the people sit down.' Now there was much grass in the place; so the men sat down, in number about five thousand."


The disciples obeyed the Master: they did all they could do to find food for this multitude of people. But, here, Andrew, the brother of Simon-Peter, seems to realize that what he has to present to the Master is in fact too little. Andrew obeyed the command of the Savior, but, nevertheless, humanly, there is no solution to their problem. Andrew seems discouraged, and this is why he says to Jesus: "...but what are they among so many?" Truly, Andrew carried out this word of the Lord: "When you have done all that is commanded you, say, 'We are unworthy servants; we have only done what was our duty.' " (Lk. 17:10) And now it is time for the Master to intervene! When all seems lost, when we have almost lost all hope of salvation, God then acts, God exercises his omnipotence, for never, absolutely never, does God abandon those who believe in him and who do all that is humanly possible for them to do in attempting to accomplish his will. Upon this little bit that man can do, God, through his grace, realizes his own work, that of the Redemption which saves and which leads to eternal Life!


"Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, 'Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost.' So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten."


Jesus, who is God, exercises his divine omnipotence: he comes to the assistance of human weakness, and he multiplies the loaves and the fish that his disciples distribute to the entire crowd. The miracle is accomplished! The divine omnipotence bursts forth into the light of day! The news quickly spreads everywhere. Imaginations heat up, people make conjectures, they imagine many scenarios concerning what would come of this impromptu gathering... They discuss, they murmur, they whisper a thousand things about what might happen to this Jesus, who, now more than ever, seems to be the Great Prophet of that time... But what completes the amazement of the crowd is the collection of the fragments left over after all the guests had finally satisfied their hunger: the people not only had enough to eat that day, but they also had enough food for the next day! Truly, this Great Prophet is exceptional: he provides for the needs the people have today, but also for what they will need in coming days! They absolutely had to do something... A King!


"When the people saw the sign which he had done, they said, 'This is indeed the prophet who is to come into the world!' Perceiving then that they were about to come and take him by force to make him king, Jesus withdrew again to the mountain by himself."


The thoughts of men are not those of God... Jesus fed the crowd of people who listened to him in order to testify to his divinity: this was his principal reason. At the same time, he took advantage of this miracle in order to provide for the needs of these people. His intention is turned first towards Heaven, from where he comes, and where he will go. Then, he takes care of the the material needs of the men and women whom he came to save. If men try to divert him from his mission, then he flees, alone, to the mountain...


Jesus came down from Heaven to the earth in order to take with him to Heaven all the men and women of the earth! If we are his disciples, if we have truly understood the lesson the Master has just taught us, then let us act like him: let us take with us to Heaven all the men and women we will meet

during our life on earth! May the Most Blessed Virgin Mary, who is in Heaven for all eternity, help us and draw us to Heaven through her love without end!"



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