Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (25 July 2021)

The first thing the strikes me while reading the Gospel for today (Jn 6:1-15) is that Jesus is, as usual, surrounded by crowds of people who are looking for a word or a gesture that will help them to continue the journey.  Jesus never seems to be in a hurry.  He always has time to listen to people, to attend to those who call on Him as He passes by. He never seems to have to get back for a meeting, hurry to another appointment or anything like that.   He attends without being 5distracted by anything else.  Here, the people follow Him and though it seems, He wanted to get away by going to the other side of the lake, when He lifts His eyes there they are again.   As He sees them he also sees their needs – not only their Spiritual needs but also their human needs.  He ‘lifted His eyes’ and ‘saw’ and then He draws the attention of Phillip to what He himself sees, and as Andrew was nearby and paying attention, he too was aware of what was happening.  Jesus doesn’t begin to worry and fuss about it, He takes the time to call their attention to the situation.   Jesus is really and truly present there in that spot at that time, He is there for His disciples and for the crowds.  He takes the opportunity to teach his friends the importance of ‘lifting up their eyes’ and ‘seeing’ and being aware of the needs.  The same thing happened with Elisha in the first reading (Give it to the people…They shall eat and have some left – 2 Kings 4:42-44).  Soo too, we read in the Psalm:

‘The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs’ (Ps 145).

Often we need to move away from our everyday routine to see more clearly what is happening around us.  Jesus saw their needs and realised that if He were to cure their infirmities it was necessary that they have enough food to eat.  When Andrew saw the young man with something to offer he saw there too the beginning of a possible solution. Even though he had very little to offer, significantly, he was willing to give what he could as a starting point and Jesus went on from there.   How important it is that we give what is ours to give, for so often the solutions to our problems are right there beside us if we look for them.  We have everything we need so that the miracle can happen; we just need to open our hearts, just as St Paul calls us to do in the second reading today: ‘I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love’ (Eph. 4:1-6),

If we lift our eyes today we will no doubt see that many, many people don’t have enough to eat, a place to live, people ready to listen to them or cure their wounds, to help them find their way, to lift up their heads. The whole world is suffering from a lack of love.  Many of our problems come from not wanting to see the needs, not lifting up our eyes, or taking responsibility.    What use to us is all the wealth if we don’t have oxygen to breathe.   Jesus didn’t need money to give the people what they needed. He only needed the collaboration of all and their willingness to share the gifts they were fortunate enough to receive.

Jesus could well ask us the same questions today: How can we do something to help those who are being badly treated, threatened with violence and death? How can we reach out to emigrants and immigrants looking for a place to live? What can we do to protect young children from abuse? How can we transmit a message of hope and faith to adolescents? How can we reach out to elderly people who live alone, are ill or abandoned? How can we be present with the Gospel message of hope to young people who find no meaning in their lives?

Jesus takes the initiative and invites us to collaborate, remembering that there is always something or someone to start with no matter how small.  There is always some who will offer what they have as a starting point.  Jesus asks us to have faith and begin with what we have.

Pope Francis invites us to share our goods and gifts, after all they are not ours but given to us to share with those who need them.

Each one of us can take the initiative, by lifting our eyes, seeing, talking with others about what we see and doing something about it together. Pope Francis’s words in Fratelli Tutti echo this and urge us on:

‘Each day offers us a new opportunity, a new possibility.  We should not expect everything from those who govern us, for that would be childish.  We have the space we need for co responsibility, in creating and putting into place new processes and changes.  Let us take an active part in renewing and supporting our troubled societies’ (77).

There are many ways for us to ‘go preach the liberating Word of God in today’s  world.’

 Sr Brigida Fahy O.P.

“Give to the people…  They shall eat and have some left” (2Kg. 4:43ff).

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