Reflections on the Readings
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 26, 2009, Year B
The Eighth Sunday After Pentecost
By Dennis Hankins
...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. (John 6:5, 6)
"How are we going to feed these folks?" Jesus asked Philip. "I don't know!" "Let's see...um, even 200 days worth of wages would not buy enough bread to feed all these people."
This he said to test him, for he himself knew what he would do. The test for Philip and for us is this: Do we know who Jesus is?
From the moment Jesus gives thanks and begins to multiply the barley loaves and fish John anticipates opening our eyes to the miracle of the Eucharist. The twelve wicker baskets of left over bread and fish reveal to the Apostles the ministry of the Eucharist that they will take into the whole world. And the people speculate if this is the greater Moses, the prophet who is to come into the world. What an afternoon it must have been.
John calls this a sign. There are seven such signs in John's Gospel. The feeding of the five thousand is the fourth 'sign.' We are to take note, to soak it in if you will. It is knowing who Jesus is that concerns John.
Jesus gently touches the heart of the matter. Philip, John, Susan, Dennis, "Do you trust me?" "Do you love me, Peter?" It's a test. He wants us to see ourselves, to ask ourselves, "Am I completely head over heels in love with Jesus?" The challenge that Philip faces will only become more intense throughout this chapter.
I want to think I would have answered the Lord with a spirit of faith and expectation. "Lord, you can do anything. Nothing is impossible with you." And then the Lord would have smiled at me and patted me on the shoulder. But I'm thinking I may have been more like Philip, getting my calculator out and trying to figure out how I'm going to get this done.
There is too much reservation in my heart. Any is too much, I know. Letting go and letting God have his way is a matter of trust and faith and obedience. I don't know if I could give up my lunch, even if Jesus said, "I'll give it back to you in a minute, I want to feed these folks over here." "Don't worry, there'll be enough."
Jesus is asking Philip, and the little boy, and us, to have a spirit of faith. What's five loaves and two fish among so many? Well, let's find out. Let Jesus bless it and let's see what happens. Little is much when God is in it. There must have been a great spirit of trust in that lad that day.
"What is that again?"
"Wait a minute, I can't hear him, Jesus is saying something about children and the kingdom."
"Say it again Lord."
"Whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child shall not enter it."
I have seen the trusting eyes of a child in all four of our children. It is an amazing thing. They believed daddy could do anything. That's what I imagine went through the mind and heart of that lad with the lunch that day. He believed Jesus could do anything. All day long he had listened to this man speak of the love of the Father. Throughout the afternoon his imagination was captured by the gracious words and presence of Jesus the Nazarene. He had gotten up real close, because that's what children do when they are around someone they can trust.
I want to be like that. I want to be real close to our Lord. I want my heart to be a sacred place. I want my hands to be gentle, my words healing, my face illumined with his peace.
The multitude knew something special had happened. Although they thought Jesus would make a good King, Jesus would not stoop to this aspiration. Rather he wanted to leave in their minds that he loved them and fed them.
It seems that there is always more than enough of everything we need when Jesus is around. Rather than exclude Jesus, we need to let him in. We need to let him put his hands on us and bless us, nurture and feed us at this Table today.
Let us pass the test and let Jesus have his way.
Let us pray: Dear Father, anoint our hearts with your Spirit that we may ever know Jesus in the breaking of the bread. Amen.