25th July, 2021

loaves and fishes


Homily for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year B

John 6: 1-15

Even if not all of us like bread and fish, I’m pretty sure that each of us would like to see and witness such a miracle as the multiplication of the loaves and fishes which is described in today’s gospel. As you may have noticed, this Word of God is very rich in content, and there are at least some interesting threads that might have caught our attention. First, we heard that the crowds were following Jesus because… they were impressed by the signs that He performed by curing the sick.

I think it can be the same in our lives. We follow Jesus, we come to church, we listen and we meditate on the Gospel because – at some point in our lives – we have been inspired by something very specific. Perhaps we have been impressed by Jesus’ teachings, His miracles, His love, compassion, or perhaps by His approach to the needy, suffering, poor and sinners. Perhaps this particular Gospel invites us to reflect and ask ourselves one very fundamental question: What impressed me the most about Jesus and what makes me believe and trust in Him? What am I looking for in the community of the Church and also in this particular church of St Edward’s? Maybe I am following Him – like most of these people in today’s Gospel – just because I want to see and witness something supernatural, or maybe I want to experience personally some miracle of healing. Or perhaps I am looking for a community in which I would feel comfortable and safe, or maybe I am following Him because I want do exactly what other people do and don’t want to be different from other people. But maybe our motivations are completely different and much deeper, which would be a good thing! Perhaps we understand our faith as a personal relationship with God who is very much present among us in this earthly life, but also as the one who awaits me and you on the other side in eternity. Perhaps we are able to see Jesus not only as a star or supernatural hero who works miracles, someone who is able to fulfil our human desires and bring us happiness mainly in this earthly life. Not only as someone who can provide us with: food, money, good health, bread, fish, friends, a good job, career and so on… But perhaps we can see Jesus as the one who directs our minds and hearts towards the heaven to which we have been called and destined to by God.

Today Jesus invites us to help Him and to cooperate with him. Yes, He wants to work miracles in the world in which we live, but on the other hand He wants our activity and our involvement in His mission. As we heard a little further in the same Gospel, one of the main characters of this scene is a little boy. We don’t know his name, but – as we heard – it was he who provided Jesus with five loaves of bread and two fish. It was thanks to him and his generosity that Jesus was able to perform a miracle and multiply the bread and fish. I think each of us can be like this little boy or like the Apostles in today’s Gospel, who – in a way – helped Jesus to satisfy the hunger of all those people who came to listen to his Words. On the one hand, someone might say that this boy did very little. What are five loaves and two fish? That is nothing! Certainly, Jesus could have performed this miracle without any help or commitment from the Apostles and without any help from this little boy. Have you ever wondered why He asked them for help anyway? Think about it for a moment…

Jesus doesn’t expect any extraordinary and supernatural miracles from us, because he knows us perfectly well, and knows that miracles are beyond our human capacity. But what we can do for Him is to be willing to cooperate with Him and with His grace. Sometimes so little is needed on our part. We will never satisfy the hunger of people in countries we’ve never been to. But we can contribute at least something small – our effort, our time, our heart and commitment to various charitable initiatives and by volunteering here in the parish and in many other places. All of this – in a way – is like the five loaves and two fish that Jesus will bless and multiply for so many of our brothers and sisters in need.

I hope this Gospel inspires you and I to answer the fundamental question: Why am I following Jesus, and what impresses me most in my faith? And the second question: What can we do to be more than just a passive listeners or witnesses to the Gospel? What can we do to cooperate and help Jesus to work miracles and satisfy not only our ordinary human hunger, but also our spiritual hunger and all the deepest desires of our hearts?

Fr Gregory