July 29, 2018 — Seventeenth Sunday In Ordinary Time
St. John Chrysostom was particularly known for his preaching skills and his ability to communicate. In fact the name “Chrysostom” means “golden-mouthed” In defining Christ-like humility, he said, “It is having the power to take revenge, but never doing that. It is characteristic of a generous, forgiving heart.”
Although our readings on this 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time do not directly address the idea of humility, that is an underlying theme in all of them.
In a miracle that anticipated Jesus’ miracle of feeding the multitude, as reported in today’s Gospel, Elisha commanded that a small amount of bread be served to 100 men. Elisha’s request is met with doubt and unbelief, but Elisha reminds them, “For thus says the Lord, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over’.” And indeed there was. God promises not only to provide, but to provide beyond the immediate need.
Elisha trusted that promise, acted upon it, and saw the promise miraculously fulfilled. We, like most people, tend to forget that God can multiply food like this. God is not dependent on how this happens, but He does touch our hearts, convert us to giving and sharing people, in ways that accomplish miracles like this. If we trust in God and live as good stewards, what we accomplish is, in its own way, a miracle.
St. Paul could not state more succinctly what our approach to living as Catholics and Christians should be. In the Second Reading from his letter to the Ephesians, Paul urges us to live “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love, striving to preserve the unity of spirit through the bond of peace: one body and one Spirit.” Does that describe our parish community?
We might like to think it does, but that cannot happen unless we have the same kind of trust that Elisha had, and which St. Paul had, as well. Paul also says in the Second Reading from his Letter to the Ephesians, “I urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” To truly understand this call to be “worthy,” we need to understand all that God has done for us, individually and as a community. It would seem natural that if we understand what God has provided us, we will naturally want to serve and obey out of gratitude.
That sounds a lot like stewardship in action, doesn’t it? We do not do what we do necessarily because we want God to love us; we need to realize that He already loves us. Each of us in his or her own way might be considered God’s first-born. Being a child of God is almost more important than anything else, and that is why we love one another, and why we serve on another, and why we recognize that miracles occur in our lives every day.
We might not know a great deal about the Apostle, St. Philip, but he certainly is listed as an Apostle by all four Gospel writers. However, he figures most prominently in the Gospel of John, from which our Gospel Reading for today comes. The main focus of today’s Gospel is Jesus’ miracle of feeding the 5,000, but Philip plays an important role in what we are being taught.
The Lord speaks specifically to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food to eat?” It is essential to note nonetheless that the Gospel tells us, “He said this to test him, because he himself (Jesus) knew what he was going to do.” Philip answers quite frankly, “Two hundred days’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.” This is the same doubt experienced by Elisha in the First Reading, and the same doubt many of us face when it comes to putting total trust in the Lord.
Jesus knew full well what miracle He was about to perform, but He also saw this as a chance to teach His Apostles, and us, too. Philip and the others had already seen Jesus perform many miracles, and there should have been no question in his mind about the divine resources Jesus had at His disposal. Yet Philip hesitated. It is human nature to hesitate, to perhaps doubt, when it comes to believing and trusting. Yet, as with Elisha, they ate and there was much left over.
Even the Lord’s closest followers could not really believe. But through this miracle, Jesus is teaching us to trust Him and to do the same in our lives. And, by committing ourselves to a stewardship way of life, we can see our own gifts multiplied. And perhaps even perform our own modern-day miracles.
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