From the 18th Sunday of Ordinary Time, Year A
When Jesus received the news of John the Baptist’s death he withdrew by boat to a lonely place where they could be by themselves. But the people heard of this and, leaving the towns, went after him on foot. So as he stepped ashore he saw a large crowd; and he took pity on them and healed their sick.
When evening came, the disciples went to him and said, ‘This is a lonely place, and the time has slipped by; so send the people away, and they can go to the villages to buy themselves some food.’ Jesus replied, ‘There is no need for them to go: give them something to eat yourselves.’ But they answered ‘All we have with us is five loaves and two fish.’ ‘Bring them here to me’ he said. He gave orders that the people were to sit down on the grass; then he took the five loaves and the two fish, raised his eyes to heaven and said the blessing. And breaking the loaves handed them to his disciples who gave them to the crowds. They all ate as much as they wanted, and they collected the scraps remaining; twelve baskets full. Those who ate numbered about five thousand men, to say nothing of women and children.
After reading the Gospel, is there anything in particular that stands out for you? Consider the following questions.
I think about my life:
- What is God asking me to listen to?
- What does God want me to pay attention to?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding me to in this reading?
I think about my community and the world:
- What is God asking of us at this time?
- What is God wanting us to attend to in our community and our world?
- What is God prompting, directing, leading and guiding us towards?
This Gospel reading recounts the only miracle that Jesus performs that appears in all four Gospels which shows that early Christians clearly saw this incident as crucial for understanding the person and ministry of Jesus.
Although this is often read as a teaching on the Eucharist, it can also be read as a general teaching on Jesus’ mission in the world. It reminds us that the Eucharist is itself a living lesson (“sacrament”) of Jesus’ mission and of ours too.
In many ways this great miracle took place in the most unlikely moment; at the end of the day, when it was time to return home, when the disciples realised they only had five loaves and two fish. Yet Jesus asked his disciples and the crowd to trust him, to “sit down” on the grass. Those who trusted him got more than they needed.
You might like to take a moment to look back on times when you have experienced God’s generosity in your life and ask for the wisdom to know how to “sit down” with trust, even in a moment of uncertainty or crisis.
This Gospel is also an expression of sharing, of compassion and of love shown by Jesus and his actions.
In what ways do we share ourselves, our gifts and our time with other people when they are in need?
It isn’t easy to put the needs of others ahead of our own, but it is what we are called to do as Christian disciples on mission. In the miracle of the loaves and fish, Jesus relies on his Father’s help as he responds to a crisis. Likewise, as Jesus’ disciples, we need to rely on his help as we respond to crises and the needs of others.
Finally, in the Second Reading, Paul has great confidence that ultimately nothing can separate us from God’s love. He lists things that might seem to come between him and God, but this is his list…
What are the things that might be getting in the way of you and the love of God?
Paul wants to share his confidence with the reader. Maybe you share this confidence, or maybe you are less sure.
Speak honestly with God for a moment or two about how you react to God’s promise of an unshakable love for you.
It is out of this love, of God dwelling within us, that we go out on mission to those most in need. May we be inspired again by this miracle and live throughout this week the example of compassion that Jesus shows us.