17th Sunday in Ordinary Time (26 July)

Today’s readings call us to a deeper awareness of God’s unconditional love for each of us. The reading from the Book of Kings gives us the fourth of the prophet Elisha’s miracles in the Old Testament. It is the multiplication of the twenty loaves of barley and wheat. Barley loaves, the bread of the poor, are what John also uses in the Gospel of today. Similarly, the hundred men eat and have leftovers, so the hungry are fed. The poor and needy have the right to their basic needs all over the world.

The Responsorial Psalm is a psalm of thanksgiving for all Creation, for providing us with food: Yahweh feeds us and answers all our needs (Ps 145).  St. Paul exhorts us to be humble, kind, patient and bear with one another in love. What a challenging sentence!

In the Gospel of John, he uses the word signs instead of miracles used in the synoptics. The function of signs is to reveal God’s loving Presence. This is around the time of the Passover feast. Jesus and the apostles are near Tiberius where there was plenty of grass. The large crowds of 5,000 followed Jesus because of the miraculous signs he had recently worked. It was getting late so Jesus tested Philip. Where shall we buy bread so that these people may eat? Andrew answered saying he had seen a boy with five barley loaves and two fish. Jesus told them to seat the people.Loaves_and_Fishes_2_

Jesus took the loaves and gave thanks. A Palestinian Jew hearing these words would have recognised the great prayer of the chosen people, the S’hema, thanking God for all the great things he had done for them (Eucharist = thanksgiving). Breaking bread was a symbol of love and friendship to the Jews. To break bread with someone was to show that you loved them intimately, like family. So Jesus himself distributed the food to those who were seated giving them as much as they wanted to eat. After they had enough, Jesus told the apostles to gather up the remainder. They collected twelve baskets of leftovers. The superabundance of leftovers is indicative of God’s super-abundant, unconditional love for each one of us, but unfortunately those receiving the food were unaware of it. Real food is what we receive from the Word of God.

When the people saw the miracle performed by Jesus they correctly identified him saying: “This really is the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” They misunderstood the sign of the love feast, the breaking of bread. So, Jesus fled to the hills alone, as he realised they wanted to make him King. No one really understood, so Jesus is left on the mountain, alone.


  1. Am I consciously aware myself of the super-abundant, unconditional love of God offered to me each time I receive the Eucharist?
  2. In what way does my response to such love show itself to those with whom I live?

Sr. Dympna Travers OP

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