YEAR B: FR. BEN’S HOMILY FOR THE 17TH SUNDAY IN ORDINARY TIME
THEME: JESUS TOOK THE LOAVES & GAVE THANKS!
BY: Fr. Benedict Agbo
HOMILY: * 2 Kgs 4 : 42 – 46, Eph 4 : 1 – 6, In 6 : 1 – 15.
There is so much hunger in our society and that’s why many people are not happy. A hungry man is an angry man. Hunger is the greatest threat to human happiness. But the fact that God can feed us is the starting point of faith/ spiritual life. Our responsorial psalm for today carries this message, Ps 145 : 15 – ‘The eyes of all creatures look to you and you give them their food in due time’.
B. WE HAVE A GREAT PROVIDER
The prophesy of Elisha is apt in today’s 1st reading in continuation with his master’s (Prophet Elijah’s) mission as the greatest service provider of the Old testament. He told the man from Baal – Shalishah : ‘Give the bread to the people to eat…for the Lord says “They will eat and have some left over”, 2 Kg 4 : 42 – 44. In the gospel, the crowd who followed Jesus forgot to eat their meals but Jesus did not forget that they were hungry. He had a “leadership mentality”. When he asked Philip the question : ‘Where can we buy some bread for these people?’, the Bible recorded that he already knew what he wanted to do as God but wanted to test Philip as a man.
C. OUR POVERTY VS PROSPERITY MENTALITY
Our mentality about scarcity makes the whole lot of difference. Let’s take a panoramic view about the whole characters in the gospel story :
(i) THE PESSIMISTIC PHILIP : Philip had a poverty mentality. He was more conscious about what was unavailable than what was available. An optimist is more conscious about possibilities than impossibilities. Look at his language : ‘Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each’.
(ii) THE ENTREPRENEUR IN ANDREW : Andrew was not too different from Philip but he understood the secret of entrepreneurship : JUST START SOMEWHERE. He therefore pointed to Jesus that there was a lad who had 5 loaves and 2 fish. And Jesus liked that input.
(iii) THE ALTRUISTIC LAD : Whether it was the left over from what the food items his poor parents may have given him to sell as a hawker or his launch which he was reserving to eat later, the fact remains that he was a generous soul. Our little contributions towards the solution to the problems of our society can sometimes be magnified by God.
(iv) THE MIRACULOUS JESUS : Jesus never worked a miracle from nothing. He always used the raw materials provided by the people from their own faith. According to Fr Ernest Makata in his commentary in the Nsukka Diocesan Sunday Bulletin of 17th Sunday 2019, ‘We must provide the raw materials for our miracles. The most salient of these materials are faith and abandonment to the will of God. Faith helps us to believe strongly in what God can do even when it is impossible to our senses. Abandonment on the other hand entails a total submission that God knows the best for us and will always do the best for us’.
D. HE TOOK THE LOAVES & GAVE THANKS
We need to understand the dynamics of every miracle : We provide the raw materials and God takes over. Eg. He made Peter walk on the sea as long as Peter looked at him in faith, Matt 14 : 21 – 33. He produced wine at the Wedding feast at Cana from available water, In 2 : 1 -10. He multiplied 5 loaves and 2 fish for 5000 people who had patience first to listen to his words.
The miracle of the loaves is a prologomenon ( preamble) to the institution of the Eucharist. The matter and form of every Eucharist celebration is the bread and wine presented by the people of God through their offertory and the words of faith and prayer of consecration (epiklesis) said by the validly ordained priest, Heb 5 : 4. When we do what we can, God will always do what we can’t.
Friends, whenever Jesus enters, there is always abundance/ prosperity but he insists that we seek the kingdom and its righteousness first. Thanksgiving disposes God for miracles and that’s what we do in every mass.
Let’s just go with one or two lessons today ;
1. Physical feeding without spiritual feeding is dangerous. The problem of modern day Christianity championed by Pentecostalism is the hackneyed emphasis on physical feeding at the detriment of spiritual feeding.
2. We must make effort according to the 2nd reading of today to preserve the unity which the Holy Spirit brings to the Church. We need to have more ecumenical dialogue. The mass is not a solitary dinner. What are we doing to anchor our separated brethren to the true faith? Pope Francis prefers a Church that is bruised while reaching out to the sick in the streets than a church that is unhealthy from being confined to its own securities and rigid structures (Evangelium Gaudium, no. 49).
3. Our leaders must be great providers not takers / consumerists. This paradigm shift is the only thing that can save Nigeria today from economic recession. Happy Sunday dear friends!