Gospel Reflections

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

John 6:1-15

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Barbara Thiella

Published: July 28, 2018



Imagine yourself living in 50 A.D. and listening with others to an eyewitness account of an outdoor hilltop experience 20 years before. All the words that follow are written as if the eyewitness is speaking,

“Scattered on a grassy hill, a large gathering of families has been listening to Jesus since early morning. Now dusk is approaching. Jesus turns to us - his friends - and asks, ‘What food is available?’ (Over 200 days’ wages would not be enough to feed this crowd of over 5000!) Nevertheless, when a young boy offers five barley loaves and two fish, Jesus invites all to break and prepare to eat. He blesses and divides up the boy’s food then asks us to distribute it. (Where is the miracle?  Do the fish and loaves multiply in such abundance that the leftovers are more food than what we had at the start? Or, does the miracle of feeding over 5000 people happen because those who brought food followed Jesus’ example and shared what they had with others?)

Either way, at a deep level Jesus touches the hearts of his listeners. As Pope Francis said recently, ‘To celebrate Easter is to believe once more that God constantly breaks into our personal histories, challenging our conventions. ‘I like looking at this event as a challenge to be nourishing for others. Stand at a different place in a circle of people and recognize the truth of honest relationships. See Jesus as meeting essential human needs: food for the body and for the spirit while also laying a foundation of what he will mean by ‘Do this in memory of me.’ Then, Jesus’ words and gestures will recall his request to remember him always. The letters in the Greek word for fish carry a symbol for Jesus and now are our sign of ‘our way,’ our commitment to further the reign of God. Let us remember, believe and celebrate our union with each other and Jesus, his Spirit and Abba. May we be witnesses prepared to recognize hope on the hillsides of our lives. In this time, in our time let there be enough for those in the range of our influence. Let our communion link us to the world and time that is ours to hold and cherish.

Time reminds me to seek more insight from other stories like this one about Jesus. I recall how the prophet Elisha also distributed 20 loaves among 100 people and collected lots of leftovers. The miracle of generous giving is not new. The apostle Paul instructed the Ephesians, new followers of the risen Lord, to strive to preserve unity in his Spirit: ‘you embrace one Lord and believe in his teaching; you are baptized in the names of the one God. No longer casual listeners, you become one – a family attentive to others who also are the “beloved of God.’ With faith in Jesus, we break bread, recalling not only this story but also his last meal with his friends. He gave us his body and blood as a sign of the oneness with us and a pledge to be present everyday of our lives

I invite you to read again the story of the loaves and fishes along with that of Elisha and Paul’s letter. What do you hear and see? As you consider Jesus’ words and gestures, there will be just enough for you. May we avoid the ending response of the 5000 who wanted more from him. Listen with an open heart and hear his words for you.”


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