Multiplication of the Loaves
17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Sunday Gospel Reflection
Today’s gospel narrates to us one of the greatest miracles of Jesus – the feeding of about five thousand people out of five barley loaves and two fish. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels.
“The location according to the text is in a “desert” region. There was green grass so it wasn’t too barren. The word “desert” means a remote place. Perhaps the gospel writers used the word “desert” because in the OT the desert was where God met, tested and blessed his people” (15 James A. Brooks, Mark, NAC. p. 107).
The miracle happened when John the Baptist had just been killed and Herod was seeking Jesus. Jesus had withdrawn with the disciples to be alone to rest (according to Mark and John’s chronology the disciples had just returned from being sent out) and to give them some private instruction. It was time to take a break, but the crowds followed Him and they have nothing to eat. There and then Jesus out of his compassion feed five thousand people in number. There were even 12 filled wicker baskets of fragments left-over.
There are three points to be considered here for our reflection and daily Christian living:
First, Jesus takes cares of us in all our needs: both body and soul. Hence, his love and care for us is integral, whole and complete. This is why in today’s account, Jesus does not want to dismiss the hungry crowd on empty stomach in a deserted place. Instead, out of compassion, he attends to his peoples’ hunger, both material and spiritual. This is the best reminder for all of us who are ministers of the word: “Never preach in an empty stomach,” or “You cannot preach love on an empty stomach” as the popular saying goes.
Second, a miracle is not God working for us; it is God working with us. Expectant faith, therefore, does not make us fold our hands doing nothing looking into heaven while waiting for miracles to come. Rather it spurs us on to make our best, if not greatest possible contributions, our efforts, cooperation, generosity, five loaves and two fish, knowing that without them, though how humble and inadequate they were, there would be no miracle.
Third, miracle aims conversion, faith and discipleship. It would be somehow sound to infer that what really happened here was not just the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish that fed the five thousand of hungry crowds but also a miracles of sharing as a fruit of conversion, faith and discipleship. It is said that “the world is so poor for everybody’s greed but so rich for everybody’s need.”
It is estimated that 840 millions out of 6.2 billon (August 16, 2002 estimate, US Census Bureau) in the world suffer from hunger and malnutrition (World Hunger, Do you know the facts?). About 24,000 people die everyday from hunger or hunger-related causes. This is down from 35,000 ten years ago, and 41,000 twenty years ago. Three-fourth of the deaths are children under the age of five. Famine and wars cause about 10% of hunger deaths, although these tend to be the ones you hear about often. Majority of hunger deaths are caused by chronic malnutrition whose cause is poverty. And the root cause of poverty is sin in the forms of injustice, greed and selfishness.
We do not need Jesus to come and be crucified once again just to perform miracles for us so that we can eat and live. Rather, let the word, the person and the example of Jesus do miracles for us by transforming us from being greedy to generous, from being selfish to selfless, from being close and indifferent to being sensitive and responsive to the needs of the people around us. This is what the world needs now. The miracle of sharing, giving, caring and love. With this, the world would be a better place to live in.
Mk 5:21-43 -THE OFFICIAL’S DAUGHTER AND THE WOMAN WITH HEMORRHAGE
13th Sunday in Ordinary Time
In both Mark and Luke, Jesus has just calmed the storm on the sea and cured a demoniac at Gadara. Now we come to a double miracle which occur almost simultaneously in which Jesus deals with both death and disease. The message from Mark 5 and Luke 8 is that Jesus has power over the natural world and the supernatural world and now we see He has power over disease and death.
The Gospels report Jesus raising three people to life–this girl, the son of the widow of Nain, and Lazarus. In each case the identity of the person is clearly given.
This account shows us, once again, the role faith plays in Jesus’ saving actions.
In the case of the woman with the hemorrhage we should note that Jesus is won over by her sincerity and faith: she does not let obstacles get in her way. For your information, this is the real status of the woman. According to Mark, the doctors couldn’t help her. He says, “She suffered much at the hands of many doctors, had spent all her money and was not helped at all.” Luke doesn’t mention that she suffered at the hands of many doctors, nor that she had spent all her money on medical bills. He just mentions that she could not be healed. Why do you think Luke left that part out? Because Luke was a doctor.
Because of her condition, this woman, who have suffered hemorrhage for twelve years, was continuously unclean according to Lev 15:25-31 and her touch would have made anyone she touched unclean. Haggai 2:10-14 makes the point that if something clean touches something unclean, then the thing that was clean is defiled. She could not go to the temple to worship. She could not touch anyone or they would be unclean for the rest of the day. If she sat in a chair, it was unclean for the rest of the day, etc. So she was basically cut off from normal fellowship with others and with God
Such was her seemingly helpless situation that she came up behind Him and touched the fringe of His garment; for she said to herself, “If I only touch His garment, I shall be made well.” Jesus turned, and seeing her He said, “Take heart, daughter; your faith has made you well.” And instantly the woman was made well. (Mt. 9:21-23).
Similarly, Jairus, the “ruler” (of the synagogue) referred to in today’s gospel narrative as can be known from the parallel passages in Mark (5:21-43) and Luke (8:40-56), does not care what people will say; a prominent person in his city, he humbles himself before Jesus for all to see. “While He (Jesus) was speaking to them, behold, a ruler came in and knelt before Him, saying, “My daughter has just died; but come and lay your hand on her, and she will live.” Kneeling is the eastern way of showing respect to God or to important people. Reverence is a legitimate and appropriate external sign of internal faith and adoration.
And Jesus rose and followed him, with His disciples” (Mt 9:18f). While they are on their way home, a sick woman comes up and touches Jesus’ garment. Her faith expressed in touching healed her. Jairus is with Jesus and when Jesus stops to help the woman some men from Jairus’ house report that Jairus’ daughter is dead. When they get to the house, He tells them “depart, for the girl is not dead, but sleeping” and they laugh at Him. Was she dead? Yes. The text says, “Her spirit returned.”
Jesus says the same thing about Lazarus: “Our friend Lazarus has fallen asleep, but I go to awaken him” (John 11:11). Although Jesus speaks of sleep, there is no question of the girl–or Lazarus, later–not being dead. For our Lord there is only one true death–that of eternal punishment (cf. Matthew 10:28). Sleep is a euphemism for “temporal” death. Paul even uses this term for believers (1 Co 15, 1Co 11).
Three interpretations we can possibly develop on today’s account:
First, from the healing of the woman we see that it is faith in Christ, not magical touches that heal. The power is in a person, not a fabric or formula. In Jesus’ time there was a superstition that that power was in the robe of a great man, priest, rabbi, etc. Her belief was that touching the fabric would make her well. In fact, when she did touch His garment, she was healed. Jesus was aware of the fact that a miracle had taken place.
Was she healed by touching his garment? Was it the garment that healed her? No, Mark 5:30 says Jesus felt the power flow from Him. Jesus declares to the woman that it was not the touch but her faith which healed her. Mark wants to distinguish between the fabric and her faith in Him. Here we can see that God can use inadequate faith, respond to it and clarify it later. God was gracious enough to respond to her faith even though it was not mature. I think one of the reasons Jesus stopped was to tell the woman that it was her faith that healed her so that she wouldn’t continue in her superstition.
Second, the raising of Jairus’ daughter affirms the deity of Christ and proves that he is the Messiah, the resurrection and the life. Matt 11:5 quotes Isa 35. It is Jesus who guarantees our resurrection from the dead. Because He lives, we too shall live (Paul tells us). It is him that turns death into sleep from which we can awake.
Third, intercessory prayer is powerful. Intercession is a prayer of petition which leads us to pray as Jesus did. He is the one intercessor with the Father on behalf of all men especially sinners (cf. Rom 8:34; 1 Jn 2:1; Tim 2:5-8). In today’s Gospel story we seem to have a miracle occurring almost independently of the woman being raised from dead. She was raised from the dead because of the faith of his Jairus – his father.
It was Jairus’ prayer in faith that healed and saved her daughter from hemorrhage. Have faith, then, to Jesus so that your heart learns to pray in faith. Faith is a filial adherence to God beyond what we feel and understand. It is possible because the beloved Son gives us access to the Father. He can ask us to “seek” and to “knock,” since he himself is the door and the way (cf. Mt 7:7-11, 13-14, see cf. CCC 2609). “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you receive it, and you will” (Mk 11:24). Such is the power of prayer and of the faith that does not doubt: “all things are possible to him who believes” (Mk 9:23; cf. Mt21:22; see cf. CCC 2610).
I exhort you, then, to have faith in God who “wills all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth” (1 Tim 2:3-4), that is, Jesus the way, the truth and the life” (see Jn 16:1; 14:6). “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn world, but that the world might be saved through him” (Jn 3: 17) and “that we might have life to the full” (Jn 10:10). Apart from Him you can do nothing (Jn 15:5), hence, pray always and never lost heart (Lk 18:1), “never cease praying, render constant thanks; such is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus. (1 Thes 5:17f);
Mk 14:12-16, 22-26 – The Lord’s Supper
Solemnity of Body and Blood of Christ
Sunday Gospel Reflection
Today we celebrate the Solemnity of the Corpus Christi. “Corpus Christi” are two Latin words for “Body of Christ.” This great feast is in honor of the Real Presence of the body and blood together with the soul and divinity of Jesus Christ in the Eucharistic species of bread and wine.
St. Bonaventure reminds us of its meritorious effect when we celebrate and explicitly confess our belief on the Eucharist: “There is no difficulty about Christ’s presence in the Eucharist as in a sign, but that He is truly present in the Eucharist as He is in heaven, this is most difficult. Therefore to believe this is especially meritorious.”[ 7. In. IV Sent. Dist. X. P. I Art. Un. Qu. I, Oper. Omn. Tom. IV Ad Claras Acquas 1889, p. 217]
As we celebrate this Solemnity of the Corpus Christi we are reminded of the following:
First, the obligation to attend Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligations. This is the first of the precepts of the Church in which every Catholic ought to fulfill to the least to be considered practicing Christian. The first precept (“You shall attend Mass on Sundays and holy days of obligation”) requires the faithful to participate in the Eucharistic celebration when the Christian community gathers on the day commemorating the Resurrection of the Lord” (Cf. CIC, cann. 1246-1248; CCEO, can. 881 par.1, par. 2, and 4).
In the Philippines the holy days of obligations are: Christmas Day (December 25), Motherhood of Mary (January 1), and Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary (December 8).
Essentially connected to this obligation is our active, full and conscious participation in the celebration of Eucharist. When we are absent-minded or our focus is disintegrated our participation is questionable. When we do not know what we say and what we do during the mass our participation is not conscious. When we do not participate in all the responses and community singing during Mass our participation is not active and full. When we go to the Church for reasons other than to take part in the celebration of the Mass then our motivation and participation are questionable.
Second, to receive the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ every time we attend Mass or at least once a year especially during Easter. This is also one of the precepts of the Church. “The Mass is a sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood. And it is because of this that even the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion. To receive communion is to receive Christ himself who has offered himself for us” (see cf. CCC 1382).
During the consecration where the bread and wine are transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, he invites and urges us to receive him in the sacrament of the Eucharist. “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you ( see Jn 6:53). “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him (Jn 6:57).
In the Eucharist “is contained the whole spiritual good of the Church, namely Christ himself our Pasch and the living bread which gives life to men through his flesh – that flesh which is given life and gives life through the Holy Spirit. Thus men are invited and led to offer themselves, their works and all creation with Christ …” (Presbyterorum ordinis, n. 5). For the bread of life to sustain life, it must be sought, approached, taken, broken, and eaten. Likewise Jesus must be invited into our lives if we are to enjoy the well being he brings.
Third, to receive worthily the sacred body and blood of Jesus Christ in the Eucharist. St. Paul St. Paul urge us to examine our conscience before coming to confession to avoid the sin of sacrilege: ”Whoever, therefore, eats the bread and drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of profaning the body and blood of the Lord. Let a man examine himself, and so eat of the body and blood of the Lord. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment upon himself” (1 Cor 11:27-29).
To respond to this invitation we must prepare ourselves by receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation before coming to communion when conscious of grave sin (cf. CCC 1385) by observing the fast required in the Church (cf. CIC, can. 919) and by bodily demeanor (gestures, clothing) that convey the respect, solemnity and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest.
Before so great a sacrament, let us echo humbly and with ardent faith the words of the Centurion:” Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul will be healed” (cf. Mt 8:8). And pray, that through Christ, the Mediator, we may be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other so that finally God may be all in all” (see cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, 48).