Reflection - Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
Photo: Leah Kelley from Pexels
The gospel for the next five Sundays comes from John’s gospel. The focus in the five gospels is the miracle of the loaves and fishes where Jesus feeds thousands of people with five barley loaves and two fish.
John writes about the signs that Jesus gave to the people, which were meant to reveal himself to the people and us in our present time. This sign, the marriage feast of Cana where he changed water into wine at a wedding, was another sign.
In this gospel, he cures many sick people and attracts large crowds. Some may lean towards becoming followers after hearing him speak of the kingdom of heaven, but many would have been following him because they were sick or someone in their family or household was sick. The news about his power to heal people, especially a dead young girl, must have been a sensation.
Here on a flat plan, he feeds over five thousand people! The food never stopped, never diminished until all finished eating. The people Jesus was dealing with were ordinary people concerned with sickness and finding enough food to eat. Life was not easy, and food was often scarce.
No wonder Jesus thought it was time to escape from the people. Here was someone who could heal their sicknesses and provide free meals for a multitude of people. Make him king, of course. This is not about faith in him except as a leader who could make their lives better.
So when people ask the question: what is God like? And their expectations are practical. As Christian people, we answer to ourselves or others that God is like Jesus. Jesus healed the sick. He gave them food when they were hungry. He taught them how to live differently, which wasn’t all that different from what the Law said: love God and love your neighbour.
But he did not surround his message with lots of rules and laws as the Jewish Law demanded. However, it is the nature of people to makes rules and organises others! We see the organising of the Christian community in the Acts of the Apostles. It is easy to get absorbed in the organisation and lose the power of the message.
Last Sunday’s gospel described how the apostles could get no rest because people were coming and going.
Miracles, of course, do not fit into our scientific and pre-eminently rational way of thinking. But the early Christians had no trouble with these miracles and their success. For us, we remember that God shows care and concern for people who are like sheep without a shepherd. God desires that people be healed and the sick be cared for. We become God’s hands and heart. God is concerned that people do not go hungry. We know Jesus instructed the apostles to become his presence in the world.
God’s power is dynamically present when we follow Jesus’ example!
Columban Fr Gary Walker is currently living at the Columban house in Sandgate, Brisbane.