Reflections on the Readings
Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time - July 29, 2012 - Year B
Feeding the Hungry
Lifting up his eyes, then, and seeing that a multitude was coming to him, 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.
Every week if not every day I receive mail reminding me of the hungry people in our world. On the face of one envelope I received it states that a child dies every 12 minutes due to the lack of food. We struggle sometimes on what to choose to satisfy our hunger. A quick trip to the store and presto we pick up a chicken ready to eat while lack of food and adequate water supplies are a daily reality in too many places in our world.
My parish bulletin last Sunday contained a notice that the local Second Harvest organization is critically low on food items such as peanut butter, canned tuna, individual boxes of cereal, canned fruit and vegetables. The notice also states that Second Harvest accepts gifts of money. For every $1 raised, Second Harvest will feed 3 complete meals to hungry kids and seniors in East Tennessee. Now that's what I call stretching a dollar as far as it can go! This East Tennessee Food Drive deserves our support.
Jesus certainly stretched the five barley loaves and two fish. Somehow in his hands the bread and fish multiplied. There was plenty for five thousand men plus women and children. Everyone had all they wanted and what was leftover amounted to twelve baskets full. I'm sure the poor and hungry in the area were fed out of the surplus and the news about this miraculous feeding of the five thousand spread throughout the area. It's not news that can be contained.
But this is not just about miraculous fish sandwiches. Jesus turning water into wine or feeding the multitudes is more about who Jesus is than what Jesus did. We are supposed to see something about Jesus in these events. In the coming weeks the gospel readings from John chapter 6 will reveal Jesus as the bread from heaven and the sign seekers repulsed by this notion. Jesus feeds the hungry but also is himself food for all who hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God.
We rightly pray for ourselves and others, "Give us this day our daily bread." While we recognize the signs of physical hunger, do we know our need of spiritual food? Do we recognize the food our soul craves? Do we possess a child like faith in him who not only cares for and feeds the sparrows but also nourishes us with his own presence? For the kingdom of God is not food and drink but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit. (Romans 14:17)
Our interior life is too anemic. We possess not enough of what St. Paul today calls humility, gentleness, and patience. Deep within us where we think we keep secret our impoverished selves we lack too often the strength of God's love. Our courage to love each other with God's love is tenuous. May we crave the good our soul needs and ask for help to love with sincerity. The bond of peace we share is worthy of our every prayer for its preservation. We should not take for granted the unity of the spirit. There is one Lord, one faith, one baptism and one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.
The Father knows when a sparrow falls from the sky and he adorns the fields with lilies and makes it rain on the just and the unjust. Therefore do not be anxious, saying, 'What shall we eat?' or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' For the Gentiles seek all these things; and your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well. (Matthew 6:25-33)
Our tables are full and our cupboards are bulging. Our gardens are filled with vegetables and fruit. We will go to the faucet and draw a glass of water without giving it a second thought. A switch on the wall will respond to our need for light. My computer I'm using to research and write these reflections has replaced my old black iron typewriter. In an instant I get news and make contact with whomever I want to contact. But hunger exists in more ways than one. Physical hunger is not the only hunger in our lives. Sometimes we are hungry for something more than what can go down the hatch. Our hearts crave for peace where there is only turmoil. We hunger for something more than spiritual fast food. We sense that we need a new discovery of the life that is worthy of the name 'Christian.'
May Jesus bless our bodies with what we need, but also give us every spiritual grace as well. For he who feeds the multitudes with the bread and the fish invites his people to come and eat the bread which is his body and to drink the wine which is his blood. Amen.
Dennis Hankins is a parishioner at Sacred Heart of Jesus Cathedral, of the Diocese of Knoxville, TN. Prior to his uniting with the Catholic Church at the Easter Vigil 2006, Dennis served as a priest in the Charismatic Episcopal Church. You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org His website is: www.dennishankins.com