Homily for July 29, XVII Sunday in Ordinary Time, year B

The text of the readings can be found by following this link to the USCCB website.

Jesus Feeds the Multitude, by Bernardo Strazzi [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

When Our Lord performed miracles, it was often both a work of mercy to alleviate suffering and a symbolic gesture that pointed to a spiritual truth or prefigured something greater that He promised for the future. When He healed the blind, it was also a sign of the spiritual enlightenment that Jesus wanted to bring us through His preaching. When He cured a paralytic, He made it a symbol of forgiveness and redemption. When He raised Lazarus from the dead, He referred to the final resurrection of all the just on judgement day and the eternal life He came to bring us.

Today’s Gospel reading recounts the miracle of the multiplication of bread and fishes to feed the hungry crowd of five thousand people. In the Gospel according to John, this is recounted in close connection with the Lord’s discourse on the Eucharist, and it seems there is a connection. Just as Jesus took a relatively small portion of bread and multiplied it to feed a large crowd, He gives us His one Body under the appearance of bread in many churches throughout the world.

Most texts in the Bible allow for multiple meanings and interpretations, which are complementary to each other. Tradition points to at least four interpretations of Scripture: the literal meaning, which gives us some historical truth; the allegorical meaning, which expresses some truth of faith; the moral meaning, which guides us in our actions; and the anagogical meaning, which has to do with the promises of God for the future to which we should aspire. There is a snappy rhyme in Latin to help people memorize these four ways of interpreting Scripture, but that’s not helpful to most of us.

So, we should be able to find four meanings to this miracle. We already have a literal interpretation: Jesus multiplied the food. There is an allegorical interpretation, which I have mentioned, which sees the Eucharistic meaning of this text. How about the the other two interpretations?

I think the first reading and the psalm help us to find the “anagogical” meaning, which is that in God’s kingdom, all people will be provided for. But while God’s Kingdom will only be brought to total visible fruition at the return of the Lord, we also have a duty to work to make that Kingdom reality here and now. That leads us to the moral interpretation of this text, regarding how we should act: we are members of the one Body of Christ (as St. Paul reminds us in the second reading), and we are called to love and help each other. We must be God’s hands and feet in this world to provide for the needs of our brothers and sisters. In fact, when St. Matthew recounts this same miracle of the bread and fishes, he makes it clear that Jesus gave the bread and fish to the disciples for them to distribute it. Similarly, God has given to each one of us gifts that we are called to share with others.

Sometimes we have more to give; sometimes less. In reality, we all have something to give, even if simply our prayers, and we all have needs too, whether they be material, emotional, or spiritual. We need God’s grace to help us to recognize what we can give, and to be humble enough to ask for what we need.

As most of you know, we have a St. Vincent de Paul society here in the parish that strives to help supply the material needs of the less fortunate people in this area. Supporting the society through donations, whether it be money or dry and canned foods, is a great, practical way for us to share the material gifts we have received. The pantry is practically empty right now because of increased need for food during the summer while kids are not getting food at school. There will be baskets at the door of the Church at the end of Mass for whatever free-will offering you feel God is calling you to make.

May God fill our hearts with His grace through the Eucharist and help us to give with love and generosity, to provide for the needs of others, as God Himself has given Himself to us.


About Matthew Green

I am a translator, origami artist/teacher, and photographer, a blogger, former philosophy professor, and I love to sing. You can see my photos on Flickr and buy prints of some of them on Fine Art America. You can find me on Instagram, Twitter (@mehjg), and in various and sundry other social media sites on the web.
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