17 Sunday B July 29 - Homily


Like the crowds we have gathered here to hear the message of Jesus.
Like those crowds we have gathered here to be fed from his hands.
Like on that hillside, Jesus takes our loaf, gives thanks to the Father, and gives it to all of us who are sitting around ready to be fed by him.
Like on that hillside, we know that this food with which he feeds us is precious, and that it is the food for the whole world.
Like those people who acclaimed him as 'the prophet who is to come into the world', we acclaim him as our priest, our prophet, and as our king – not a king whose kingdom belongs to this world, but as the king who presents the kingdom of truth and life to our Father in heaven.

"There is enough for all our needs, but there is not enough for all our greed."

Let us understand:

The hero of today's tale is a Hall of Fame Jewish child. Only Norman Rockwell could do him justice.

The boy is the rarest of individuals - a person who gives away everything he possesses. Our attention of course is drawn to the Christ distributing all those fresh rolls and seafood. But reflect where He got the food that made the miracle a fact.

Introduction 1:

For the next five Sundays we set aside our reading of the gospel of Mark to devote attention to John 6 and the Bread of Life discourse. The fourth gospel differs from the others in many respects and one is the way in which the evangelist teases out the implications of Jesus' actions through long discussions in which the participants are being asked to consider in depth the symbolism behind his deeds. The multiplication of the loaves and fishes is the only miracle story that John shares with the other gospels, though he calls them signs because of his desire to highlight not so much the power of Jesus but his identity. The signs point to who he is as the one sent by the Father. John's account of this differs in some small ways. He tells us these events take place just before the feast of Passover and thereby invites us to make a connection with that founding story of the Israelites when God fed them in the wilderness. He also notes that the boy brings five 'barley loaves' which was the bread of the poor. Finally, we are told that twelve baskets of scraps are gathered up so that nothing may be lost. Here it is possible to see a symbolism referring to Jesus' desire to gather to himself the new people of God.

Thomas O'Loughlin

Introduction 2

We have assembled for our weekly Eucharist — as we do every week. But why is this important to us? And although we do it every week, how well do we as a community engage in this activity of celebrating the Eucharist? Giving thanks to the Father, in union with Jesus, while being empowered by the Spirit, is an activity: how well do we do this as the group of disciples who form a church here each Sunday?

These are important questions for us. So, over the next five weeks we are going to be reading passages from St John's gospel on the Eucharist, and these will challenge us to reflect on what we are doing when we gather, why we are gathering for this meal, and how well we are celebrating it.

Let us reflect that we are gathered in the Holy Spirit, and about to celebrate the Lord's meal, and with him offer thanks to the Father.

 Michel DeVerteuil

Introduction 3

This famous chapter, which presents Jesus as the Bread of Life, starts with the story of the miraculous feeding of the people by Jesus. Take the story very slowly, watching how it unfolds and stopping at whatever point you find touches you.

It can be divided up into sections:
* Verses 1-3: The stage is set. Jesus takes up his position on the other side of the sea, sitting on the hillside with his disciples. He lets the people come to him of their own accord.

* Verses 10-12: The miracle of the feeding.
* Verse 13: The command to pick up the scraps, which has its own deep symbolism.
* Verses 14-15: The confrontation between Jesus and the people.

Right through the story you will find yourself identifying either with Jesus or with the people. Jesus is the great leader and teacher; the people are symbolic of ourselves being led to experience grace in a deep way, with the blessing that this implies and also the wrong responses that we easily fall into.  The dialogue between Jesus and the apostles is also very significant, and you may want to focus on that aspect of the story.

Homily Notes

1. Today is not a day for 'giving' a homily, much less 'preaching' — both assume an agent (the speaker) and an object (those who are spoken to). Rather, this is a day for trying to create a mood of just settling back and reflecting on what we are doing. What we are doing by gathering each Sunday, what we are doing when we celebrate the Eucharist, what we are doing as God's People.

2. One way to do this is to set the scene before reading the gospel. The scene can be set in this way (if the gospel is read by a deacon, then the president could set the scene; if the president himself has to read the gospel, then someone else could do it; it is better done while people are sitting down before the gospel acclamation):
We gather here each Sunday — this is the day when we recall the resurrection of Jesus; it is for us the first day of the week.
At this gathering we always recall something of our Lord's life and teaching. This takes the form of reading a part of one of the four gospels — and today we are going to read from the gospel written by John.
Then we gather around the Lord's table for the meal of the Lord, when we give thanks through Jesus to the Father over the gifts of bread and wine. Then by sharing those gifts we are transformed into the Body of Christ.
This is what Christians have done since the very beginning, and were doing this even before the gospels were written down.
Today we recall a story told by John at a gathering for the Eucharist on a Sunday over 1900 years ago. John knew that when the gathering heard the story it would help them understand the sacred dimension of the meal they celebrated together each week. We will now read that story

3. Then when people have settled down again after the proclamation of the gospel, this reflection could be offered:

4. Dom Helder Camara, a Brazilian bishop, once said, "When I give food to the poor, they call me a saint. When I ask why they are poor, they call me a communist." Today the Lord asks all sorts of people who have influence in shaping public policy to make their contribution by keeping Helder Camara's question in the forefront of debate about political, social, and economic policies. The contribution of those who seek solutions to the very difficult question of Helder Camara is as essential as the contribution of those who are daily engaged in the immediate relief of starving people. And regardless of the effort, there will always be the feeling: but what good is this among so many?

Sean Goan


It is not given to us to perform miracles like Elisha and Jesus but perhaps that is as it should be. In a world where there is so much need, we have a great deal to give. It may not seem like much to us but when it is shared it becomes more than we can ever imagine. The miracles worked by Jesus and Elisha needed someone to come along and offer what they had. God still needs us to do the same and still guarantees that if we do, things will happen! That we are reading from John over the next few weeks is an invitation to realise that while all the gospels proclaim Jesus, they do so differently. This means that we need to read them differently so that we can get the most from what the evangelist is trying to say. Very early on in the tradition of the church, John's was called the 'spiritual gospel' because from the beginning it was recognised that he was challenging us to think very deeply about the mystery of the Word made flesh.

Prayer Reflection

Lord, we thank you for leading us to a deeper relationship with you:

* we joined a prayer group or a religious community;
* we gave up a relationship that had been harming us for many years;
* we returned to confession and the Eucharist after a long break.
It was a journey you led us on, as you led the people in the wilderness.
It began when we were impressed by the signs you gave in curing the sick;
several people we knew had turned to you and found new meaning to their lives.

For a time, we were just following, not sure where we would end up;
others worried about how we would satisfy our needs,
but you knew exactly what you were going to do.

Then came the great moment of grace:
we felt that you had given us all the nourishment we wanted;
in fact, we had enough to fill countless hampers with the leftovers.
Thank you, Lord.

Lord, we pray for parents who see their children following Jesus into new places.

Naturally, they are concerned, worrying about where the children will get bread to eat, how they will make a living, or raise their families, or enjoy their recreation.
But you are letting them feel this concern only to test them;
you know exactly what you are going to do for the children.

 Lord, often leaders don't believe in their people.
They think the problem is finding money to buy bread for them, and, of course, there is never enough even to give them a small piece each.
If only they would seek out the little people with five barley loaves and two fish, take the loaves and give thanks and give them out to all who are sitting ready, and then do the same with the fish, giving out as much as is wanted, they would find that all would have enough and they would even pick up leftover scraps to fill twelve hampers.

"One act is required, and that is all. For this one act pulls everything together and keeps everything in order. This one act is to stand with attention in your heart." Theophane the Recluse

 Lord, we thank you for our parents, teachers, those who have guided us.
They allowed us to come to them of our own free will, like Jesus sitting on the hillside with his disciples.

They tested us, as Jesus tested Philip when he knew exactly what he was going to do; and they waited for us to see the way forward, as Jesus waited for Andrew to point out the little boy with the five barley loaves and the two fish. 
Lord, the sign that we receive food as a gift from you is that we pick up the pieces left over, so that nothing gets wasted.
We thank you for those who taught us this deep truth.

"We have no vision, no models or metaphors to live by. Only the saints and mystics live well in a time like this." Denys Arcand, Canadian film director

Lord, when people impress us, we see the signs they have given
and immediately we say, "This is the prophet who is to come into the world,"
and we want to take them by force and make them king.
But they always escape from our grasp.
If we had experienced you, we would know that you are the only king
and we cannot possess you.

 "One who knows his own weakness is greater than one who sees the angels."  Isaac of Nineveh, Syrian monk of the 7th century

Lord, it is so important that we who are in authority or have power over others should develop our inner life; that, like Jesus, we should know how to leave people and go to the other side, and there climb a hillside to be alone with our companions.

Then we will have inner freedom so that when people come to take us by force and make us what we cannot be we will be able to escape back to the hills by ourselves.


Anecdote #1 “No my son, the pigs of my village don’t pray before meals!” Monsignor Arthur Tonne has a funny story on today’s gospel lesson. A village farmer stopped at a restaurant in the nearby town and sat near a group of young fellows who were acting up, shouting at the cook and heckling the waitress. When his meal was set before him the old farmer bowed his head to offer a prayer. One of the smart-alecks thought he would have some fun with the old farmer. So he shouted in a loud voice that could be heard by everyone, “Hey, Pop, does everyone do this where you come from?” Calmly the old man turned towards the lad with an innocent smile and replied in an equally loud voice: “No son, our pigs don’t.” Today’s gospel tells us that before feeding the five thousand Jesus took the loaves of bread, gave thanks (to God his Father) and distributed them.

Anecdote #2 A bag of rice to share: From her personal experience, Mother Teresa relates a story showing how the poor are more generous than the rich because they have experienced hunger and poverty. Learning of a poor Hindu family in Calcutta who had been starving for many days, Mother Theresa visited them and brought a big parcel of rice to the mother. She was surprised to see how the mother divided the rice into two equal portions and went out with one bundle to give it to her Moslem neighbor. When she returned, Mother Theresa asked her why she had done such a generous deed. The woman replied: “My family can manage with half the rice in this bag. My neighbor’s family has several children and they are also starving." Today’s gospel tells the story of a small boy who showed this same kind of generosity. By sharing his small lunch (which consisted of five slices of barley bread and two pickled fish), he became the instrument of a miracle in Jesus’ hands.

Anecdote #3 “I wish I could be a brother like that:” Paul had received a special pre- Christmas gift from his rich brother. It was a beautiful new car - fully loaded and ready to go. On Christmas Eve, when Paul came out of his office, a street kid was walking around the shiny new car, admiring it. "Is this your car, mister?” the kid asked. When he replied that it was and that his brother had given it to him for Christmas, the boy said, "You mean your brother gave it to you, and it didn't cost you anything? Free? For nothing? Gosh, I wish..." The boy hesitated, and Paul knew what he was about to say. He had heard it many times over the past few days. He was going to wish he had a brother like that. But what the boy said shocked Paul. ”I wish", the boy said, "I wish I could be a brother like that." We can be a brother like that or a sister like that. All it takes is that we offer ourselves and what we have, to God. All it takes is that we cease to worry about how little we have and begin instead to think about what it is that we can offer to others, as the little boy in today’s gospel story did by sharing his bread and fish with the multitude through Jesus. (“Chicken Soup” series).

Anecdote #4 Sharing everything: A young man saw an elderly couple sitting down to lunch at McDonald's. He noticed that they had ordered one meal, and an extra drink cup. As he watched, the gentleman carefully divided the hamburger in half, counted out the fries, one for him, one for her, until each had half of them. Then he poured half of the soft drink into the extra cup and set that in front of his wife. The old man then began to eat, and his wife sat watching, with her hands folded in her lap. The young man decided to ask if they would allow him to purchase another meal for them so that they didn't have to split theirs.

The old gentleman said, "Oh no. We've been married 50 years, and everything has always been and will always be shared, 50/50."
The young man then asked the wife if she was not going to eat, and she replied, "It's his turn with the teeth."

Anecdote #5: Stone Soup:

I love the story of a Christian missionary hiking the high Andean trails to a remote village in Peru. He found a rock along the road, a curious geode, and put it in his backpack as a souvenir. That evening he strode into the village to a very unfriendly welcome. No one offered him a bed. No one asked him to sit by their fire. He learned that a famine had plagued the Indians for over a month. And the people were starving. Each was simply afraid to share amidst so much deprivation.

Praying to Jesus how to help them, he got an idea. Calling the Indians around a campfire he preached God's loving care in Christ. Then he said, "I'm going to feed you by making some stone soup. Yummm! It's tasty! I grew up on it! And you'll like it just fine!" Then he opened his backpack and produced the rock he'd found that morning.
The Indians scoffed, "Stone soup! Why that's the stupidest thing I've ever heard!"

"Trust me," the missionary assured them. "See! I've brought the stone. But I'm going to need a pot to put it in." An Indian woman quickly volunteered her pot.

"And I'll need about two large buckets of water to boil the stone in." A man, shaking his head, brought the water. So, in went the stone, in went the water, and over the fire the pot was suspended. Curious now, the villagers began to gather around the pot, peering into its contents. The missionary began to stir the pot and drool. "You know, stone soup sure is good with carrots!" To which an Indian said, "I've got six carrots!" He quickly fetched them and they were cut up into the pot. Then the missionary smelled deeply of the bubbly broth and sighed, "Some potatoes sure would add to the flavor." From pockets and other hiding places came dozens of spuds. They were quickly added to the soup. Soon people were bringing onions, celery, and bits of meat to top off the pot of stone soup. And within the hour a community was formed around that stew pot. All ate. And all were filled and they heard the story of Jesus Christ.

Believe John 6:1-14 as a miracle of Jesus in multiplying the bread and fish, if you will, or believe Jesus' miracle in the selfish human heart causing the multitudes to share. But above all, remember this: The next time you see a need or feel inadequate, don't look at the hillside, look in the basket. Don't count the difficulties presented. Look at the resources possessed. Don't measure your problems. Measure God's power!

Anecdote #6 Monarch Butterfly:
No One Completes the Journey Solo
I am sure you are familiar with the amazing story of the migration of the monarch butterfly, a lovely little creature who blesses our gardens and forests in the summer. Every autumn, millions of monarchs from all over the eastern United States and Canada migrate thousands of miles to a small handful of sites in Mexico where they rest for the winter. Then in the spring, they begin their return trip to the north. The amazing thing is that no individual monarch ever makes the trip to Mexico and back.
A butterfly that leaves the Adirondack Mountains in New York will fly all the way to Mexico and spend the winter. In March, it begins the trip northward, but after laying eggs in the milkweed of Texas and Florida, it will die. Those butterflies will continue northward, laying eggs along the way until some of them, maybe three or four generations removed from the original, make it back to mountains of New York. But when August comes, they will head south, aiming for the exact place their great grandparents visited, a place they have never been.
Sue Halpern says: "The monarchs always migrate in community and depend on each other. Although a single monarch may make it from New York to Mexico, it is the next generation who completes the journey."
Now here is the word for the church. She says: "No one completes the journey solo. It is only as a community that we discover the fullness of God's plan for us."

Anecdote # 7: Caterpillars:
Walking in Circles
You may know the famous story of Jean Henri Fabre, the French naturalist, and his processional caterpillars. He encountered some of these interesting creatures one day while walking in the woods. They were marching in a long unbroken line front to back, front to back. What fun it would be, Fabre thought, to make a complete ring with these worms and let them march in a circle.
So, Fabre captured enough caterpillars to encircle the rim of a flowerpot. He linked them nose to posterior and started them walking in the closed circle. For days they turned like a perpetual merry-go-round.
Although food was near at hand and accessible, the caterpillars starved to death on an endless march to nowhere.
That seems to be the story of many people today. They are on a march that leads to nowhere. We need to stop for a moment, and sit down in the presence of Jesus.
Then we need to receive what Christ has to offer us, just as the multitude received the loaves and fish.

Anecdote # 8 The Hungry Woman:

A hungry old woman prayed for food. Her atheist neighbor put bread and fish outside her door. She thanked God aloud. Her neighbor derisively shouted, "It was me and not your God who put food there." She replied, "Thank you, Jesus. You never fail me even if you have to use a devil to work a miracle."

Anecdote # 9 The Bully

Once upon a time a young man made a retreat. As a kid he’d been a bully, but he gave that up quickly because his priest had told him it was wrong. On the retreat however he remembered that he had teased a skinny little girl about her buck teeth and her glasses. She cried every time he teased her, and then whenever she saw him. He really liked to see her cry. Then she and her family moved away and he grew out of his teasing phase, about which he quickly forgot.

However, on the retreat the nun who gave the conferences talked about bullies. That conveniently repressed phase of his life came back and horrified him. He felt terrible. How could he have been such a jerk. The poor little kid. He might have ruined her life. He talked to the nun about. Typical boy behavior she observed. But I stopped doing it. I grew up. I haven’t been a bully for a long time. Will God forgive me? Yeah, probably said the nun, but I’m not sure about the little girl. He went home from the retreat really upset. He had done a terrible thing. He had to find the little girl and apologize.

For a couple of weeks he couldn’t sleep he felt so guilty. So he began to search for the girl. He discoveredwhere she had moved to and then that she was a lawyer like he was and worked for a firm near his. It took him another two weeks to work up the nerve to seek her out. Then by accident he encountered her in court one morning. She had grown up to be gorgeous. He stumbled and bumbled and muttered and apologized. You were a bully all right, she said. But you were kind of cute too. Can I buy you a cup of coffee.

That’s the way God is.

Anecdote #10: Fight over a Cookie

I heard about a little boy who got into a heated argument with his sister about who was going to get the last biscuit (cookie, brownie), and his mother overheard this discussion and came in to try to resolve the fuss. Her two children, both extremely upset, each wanted that last brownie. So sensing the opportunity to teach a deeper spiritual truth, the mother looked at her children and asked that very relevant question..."What would Jesus do?" Well, that little boy immediately answered, "That's easy. Jesus would just break that brownie and make 5,000 more!"

Anecdote #11: The Business Partner