Celebrating the Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time

Jesus then took the loaves, and when he had given thanks, he distributed them to those who were seated; so also the fish, as much as they wanted. And when they had eaten their fill, he told his disciples, "Gather up the fragments left over, that nothing may be lost." So they gathered them up and filled twelve baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves, left by those who had eaten (Jn 6:11-13).


This week's Gospel is from St. John 6:1-15.


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.


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.


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O God, protector of those who hope in you, without whom nothing has firm foundation, nothing is holy, bestow in abundance your mercy upon us and grant that, with you as our ruler and guide, we may use the good things that pass in such a way as to hold fast even now to those that ever endure.

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