World Day of Grandparents and Elderly.
Hunger for the Word of God
Readings: 2 Kings 4: 42 – 44
Responsorial Psalm: 145
Second Reading: Ephesians 4: 1 – 6
Gospel: John 6: 1 – 15.
The readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time tell of how God provides for all of our needs
and feeds us spiritually. In the first reading Elisha assures his servant that 20 barley loaves will
feed 100 people, and it does just as the Lord promised. And in the gospel Jesus feeds the crowd of
five thousand with five loaves and two fish, a foreshadowing of the Eucharist.
In our first reading today taken from the Second Book of Kings 4:42-44. We read an incident
from the life of Elisha, the prophet in Israel who inherited the mantle of the great Elijah. He
prophesied in Israel during the second half of the 9th century. By anointing Jehu as king of Israel,
he helped to bring about the overthrow of Achab’s dynasty which had introduced the worship of
Baal into Israel and had almost paganized the whole northern kingdom. This reading describes a
miracle worked by Elisha
In today’s second reading of St. Paul to the Ephesians 4:1-6. St. Paul lays great stress on Christian
unity which is the essence of the faith. “Brothers and sisters I, the prisoner in the Lord beg you
to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness,
with patience, bearing with one another in love, making every effort to main the unity of the Spirit
in the bond of peace.” In these six verses he gives a sevenfold formula of unity on which the
various aspects of true Christian unity are based.
Although Jesus had the intention of preparing the minds of the multitude for his discourse on the
heavenly food which he would make next day, his principal motive in working this miracle was
pity and compassion. He knew that they were hungry—they had been away from home all day
and some for many days.
The Old Testament and Gospel readings tell of the feeding of hungry people. Elijah’s miracle, for
the poor widow, came towards the end of a long drought when famine raged in the land of Israel,
and the kindly action of a well-wisher enabled the prophet to feed his hungry community.
They were willing to suffer this inconvenience but he did not want them to do so. Even though he
knew there were some among them who would never accept him, and perhaps even some who
would be among the rabble that demanded his crucifixion on Good Friday; yet he made no
distinction. He had compassion on them all.
This miracle should surely convince us that Christ is interested in our daily needs too, just as he
was interested in those of his contemporaries in Palestine. Our principal and only real purpose in
life is to be saved and Christ is ever ready to help us. However, we have first to travel through our
earthly life so, of necessity, we have to take a passing interest in the affairs of this world. We have
to provide for our earthly needs and for those of any others who may depend on us. For many, in
fact for the vast majority of men, this has always been and will be a struggle against great odds.
Here, too, Christ is ever ready to help us. He has a true interest in our progress through life and if
we turn to him trustfully and sincerely, he will help us over our difficulties.
This does not mean that we can expect or demand a miracle whenever we find ourselves in
difficulties. If, however, we are true to Christ and to the faith in our daily lives, he will find ways
and means of freeing us from difficulties which would otherwise overcome us. If we look back
over our past we may notice occasions when we were saved from grave difficulties by some
unexpected intervention. We may not even have called on Christ to help us but he knew our needs
and he answered our unspoken request. Those five thousand hungry people had not asked him for
food, but he knew their needs. He knew too that their needs were caused by their desire to be in
his presence—so he gave them what they had not thought of asking for. If we are loyal to him we,
too, can trust that his mercy and power will be with us in our hour of need. He may not remove
the cause of our difficulty. Remember St. Paul who had some bodily infirmity which he thought
impeded his effectiveness as a missioner? Three times he pleaded with Christ to remove this
‘infirmity, but Christ assured him: “my grace is sufficient for you.” He would prove all the more
effectively that he was Christ’s Apostle by preaching in spite of that infirmity: “for my power is
made perfect in weakness” (2 Cor. 12: 7-9). Thus it may be that Christ will use the very difficulty
from which we are suffering, to bring us and others into more intimate union with him. Many of
the saints suffered great hardships and afflictions during their years on earth—these very
afflictions were Christ’s gifts to them. Without these, and the virtues of patience, faith and trust
which they had to practice, they might not be among God’s elect today.
We must rest assured then that Christ is intimately interested in our daily lives on earth. We must
not expect that this interest of his will remove all shadows from our path. This would not be for
our eternal good—and our eternal happiness is Christ’s first interest in us. It should also be our
own first and principal interest too. It will help us, too, to bear with our lot, if we look about us
and see so many others who are worse off, or at least as badly off as we are especially with regard
to the snags of life. Christian charity will move us to help them; we may not be able to give them
any material help, but we can help to lighten their load by showing our sincere interest in them
and by offering words of comfort and consolation. This is the only charity that the poor have to
offer to their fellow sufferers, but if it is Christ-inspired its effects will reach to heaven.
We are all too familiar from television with the obscenity of people dying of starvation in an
affluent world for whom there has been no miraculous feeding. Sometimes, by contrast, we have
known joyful moments of humane solidarity, when music and celebration aroused the hope that
we could “Feed the World.” On days like that, the little we gave seemed as important as the
loaves and fishes. When people share food and resources with strangers, barriers are broken down.
They recognize their dependence on one another.
But just as soon as one crisis of starvation has been relieved, another seems to arise. People in the
poorest countries still struggle, just to survive. It is easy to feel powerless in the face of the sheer
impossibility of feeding the world, to allow the first symptoms of “compassion fatigue” as the aid
agencies call it, to give way to numbed indifference. Like Elijah’s servant or Andrew, we ask,
“How can we feed so many, with so little?”
It would horrify the humane voters in democratic lands if our leaders and planners openly
admitted how the economic logic which sustains our way of life dictates that the most powerless
are destined to go hungry for ever. But our developed world makes tough trade agreements,
creates food mountains and milk-lakes, and diverts financial and human resources into the arms
trade rather than into development and education. Even if our leaders and planners are sensible,
humane people, they are—like ourselves—caught in the web of unjust expectations which is part
of what we mean by “the sin of the world.”
Mahatma Ghandi the Father of the Nation, (India), said once, “To the poor man, God does not
appear except in the form of bread and in the promise of work.” The Eucharist renews the deepest
springs of our humanity by a story of bread broken and eaten for the life of the world. Can we
help those who celebrate the Eucharist with us this Sunday to see a link between it and the hunger
of the world? Has the parish some project to support a missionary helping in the developing
world, or can some local people to be enlisted in telling the story of such a project? “Gather up the
fragments so that nothing gets wasted.” Global solutions lie beyond the power of our local parish,
which is why we need to remember the lesson of the fragments. If we can put a little new heart
into our efforts, that will be something worthwhile. If we can become conscious of our
wastefulness of world resources, it may be the beginning of repentance.
The Lord can work powerfully in and through the very little that we possess, if we are generous
with that little. The small boy is our teacher in that regard. He gave over his few barley loaves and
fish, and the Lord did the rest. So often the spontaneous generosity of children can have a great
deal to teach us. God bless. Have a wonderful Sunday.