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Seventeenth Sunday

God has provided for us through all of human existence. He fed the Israelites with manna and quail, while they wandered in the desert and no one went hungry. Elijah, through the mercy of God, was able to eat along with a widow and her son for some length of time with only a little oil and a hand full of flour. Through the grace of God, Elisha fed a hundred people with twenty loaves and fresh grain in the ear. Moreover, as God promised, “they shall eat, and there shall be some left over.” (Kings 4:43) In the Gospel today, Jesus repeats this feeding of the hungry but in a much more dramatic fashion. In this miracle, the only one found in all four Gospels, Jesus feeds a crowd of over 5000 people with five loaves and two fish. Jesus in His love for them wants to satisfy the hunger of the crowd.
The crowds had been following Jesus wanting to see miracles and to hear of His promise of a life different from their current misery. Life under the oppressive Romans and the required strict observance of the religious law did not present much hope physically or spiritually for the Jewish people in eking out a daily existence. The Romans unmercifully taxed the Jews to pay for the Roman Legion stationed in Israel and to pay tribute to the Roman emperor. The restrictions, according to the Mosaic law and the resulting punishments for a sinful life, identified God as being a wrathful and vengeful God, not the gentle, loving Father that Jesus described.
The opportunity for freedom from this hope-destroying life led many to follow Jesus to discover the meaning of His words of a new kingdom. The desire to know was so intense that the people raced from one location to the next to hear His words often without any regard of what they would eat. Jesus in his loving concern saw their need and responded by feeding the crowd along the Sea of Galilee. However, no one was prepared the feed the number present. In looking for food, all that the disciples could gather were five loaves of bread and a few fish, not nearly enough to feed even ten people and assuredly, not 5000. Jesus “took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining.” (John 6:11) Jesus, the Son of God and always at the total service of his people, distributed the bread Himself. By the grace of God, the bread and fish do not run out, and even after all ate their fill, there were twelve wicker baskets of food remaining. In this meal, Jesus provides for the physical needs of the crowds. Jesus provided the bread that fed them, that satisfied their physical hunger, the bread that sustained their life.
This meal is a precursor of the events associated with the Last Supper. In the Eucharist, Jesus recognizes our needs and weaknesses, and He accompanies us on the journey toward the Kingdom, providing for our spiritual hunger. As in the miracle of the bread and fish, Jesus at the Last Supper “took” the bread and gave “thanks” and “distributed” the bread to His followers. However, this meal is different, for Jesus now feeds our souls with His words and His body and Blood. The Last Supper is a spiritual supper for it takes faith to believe the words of Jesus, ‘This is My Body” and ‘This is My Blood’ as He changes the bread and wine into Himself. In this transubstantiation, one cannot physically determine a difference in the physical elements of the bread and wine before and after the consecration. The bread and wine look the same and taste no different than before the blessing by the Priest. Therefore, Body and Blood of Jesus is not physical nourishment to be sensed by any of our five senses. The Body and Blood of Jesus instead is spiritual nourishment for our souls as Jesus enter us to make us a holy people. Jesus becomes the bread of life that feeds us, that satisfies our spiritual hunger, the bread that will sustain us forever.
Jesus will not allow the faithful to go hungry In his bountiful nature, there will always be more than is needed for Jesus takes care of all His children. The Lord is always with those who depend on Him.
“I am the bread of life; whoever comes to me will never hunger, and whoever believes in me will never thirst.” (John 6:35)

Deacon Dan Gilbert

Sixteenth Sunday

Emotions are a natural part of human existence that enables us to identify the memorable, good or bad, episodes in our lives. For centuries the heart was considered to be the organ that commanded our emotions such as love, hate, joy, and fear. As one experienced one of those gut-wrenching emotions, the most noticeable location where changes occurred was in the heart. There was the tightness in the chest, a bounding feeling in the heart. Then as the heart pumped the blood to other parts of the body, other out-of-the-ordinary feelings occurred like rapid breathing, flushing of the face, sweating, and nausea. For the ancients, it seemed reasonable that the heart was the source of all of these responses. Today, science tells us that it is the brain that controls the heart as well as other organs of the body and it is the cause for our emotional responses.
However, even with the medical descriptions explaining the functionality of the body, we still instinctively represent the heart as the controller of our emotions. The scientific explanation of electrical impulses and chemical reactions seems somewhat insulting to describe these intense and personal feelings. We continue to speak of people as being ‘heartstruck,’ ‘broken-hearted,’ ‘having a heart of gold,’ ‘he stole my heart,’ ‘a girl after my own heart,’ ‘heartfelt desires,’ ‘evil-hearted’ or ‘heartless.’ When one use any of these descriptive phrases, we immediately understand that these are intense personal emotions.
Jesus, as a human being, experienced these same heart-filled emotions. While we know Jesus expressed sorrow and anger, the most apparent emotion that he expressed throughout the Gospels was love. Jesus had a human heart, but in that heart, there was more love than any human could ever express. Jesus carries the love and the pain of the whole world in His heart. His heart goes out the people, in today’s Gospel from Mark, who are milling about “like sheep without a shepherd.” Although exhausted, “he began to teach them many things” for His love for them surpassed His human needs. Even when nailed to the cross, Jesus spoke of the forgiveness of his killers out of love.
In describing the intense love that Jesus’ heart has for all of us, we identify the devotions of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and the Divine Mercy of Jesus. These two devotions are inseparable since the source of both is the heart of Jesus. Our Lord asked St. Margaret Mary that the image of His Sacred Heart be honored and venerated by all the faithful. In His first apparition to her in 1673, He said, "My Divine Heart is so passionately in love with men that it can no longer withhold the flames of that burning love." The Sacred Heart overflows with merciful love for us, and we are to overflow with love to others. The devotion to the Sacred Heart calls for repentance of sin, and the devotion should lead us to a deeper understanding of His infinite love and mercy for us.
Our Lord told St. Faustina, in the 1930s, "My daughter, know that My Heart is mercy itself. From this sea of mercy, graces flow out upon the whole world. No soul that has approached Me has ever gone away unconsoled" (Diary, 1777). The Image of the Divine Mercy shows us the rays of Blood and Water emanating from the area of His Heart pierced by the soldier’s lance. The rays are emanating outward—they are going out to a hurting world. The Divine Mercy calls us to the understanding that God’s love is unlimited and accessible to everyone.
The physical heart of Jesus is the symbol of the total love of Jesus, divine, and human has for each of us. In our devotions to the heart of Jesus, we recognize that nothing can surpass His love for us. When we say, ‘I put my heart into I’ and ‘I want that with all my heart’ let these efforts be directed to our love for Jesus for He shows us what love can accomplish. The Sacred Heart of Jesus gives us a deeper understanding of His infinite mercy and calls us to ask for forgiveness of our sins in our lives. The Divine Mercy of Jesus calls us to live out the message of forgiveness and mercy. As we trust in the Lord, we receive His Mercy. That mercy then flows through us to others in this suffering world.
“Draw near to God, and he will draw near to you.” (James 4:8)

Deacon Dan Gilbert