Gospel Reflections

17th Sunday of Ordinary Time

John 6:1-15

Sunday Gospel Reflection by Sister Antoinette Tombozi

Published: July 29, 2018

On this Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, the Church, our mother, invites us to meditate on the Gospel of St. John, in the sixth chapter.  It consists of a long account on the bread of life which begins with ‘the multiplication of bread, followed by the discourse on the bread of life.’ 

St. John provides us with a meditation on the Eucharist and on faith, as spoken by Jesus. The multiplication of bread took place during a material famine at the time of Elisha, as a sign of God’s goodness, and during spiritual famine in Jesus’ time. God never forgets us and knows our needs. The multiplication is a sign of the power of God. The prophet’s mission is to show God’s goodness and to be a selfless man of God; he does not focus on his own needs, as a follower, but gives all he is able to give, in faith.  He is certain that God knows his needs in advance. 

Even more so, the prophet has a mission of providing signs in the name of God: to share, to multiply, to give from what he has, to give even from his own need, and to entrust himself to God.  This is an action which God blesses. So what is multiplied is not only bread, it is faith, confidence in God and neighbor. The multiplication of bread by Elisha indicates a prelude; Elisha prefigures Jesus. 

The Gospel of John tells us about the enthusiastic crowds who followed Jesus because he had cured many sick people.  The crowd was waiting for bodily healings; the physical healings performed by Jesus performed were intended as signs of a greater renewal.  The people saw tangible signs; Jesus intended to open them up to a better future with these healings.  On this particular day, Jesus had decided to give a very important sign – the multiplication of bread for the crowd so that they would never again be hungry.  He did this by means of a small number of loaves of bread multiplied, and then he said: “I am the bread of life; the one who comes to me will not hunger. The one who believes in me will never thirst.”

In this Gospel, to better understand the importance of this sign, Jesus said to Philip, “Where can we buy some bread so that these people may eat?”  Philip responded: “Two hundred denarii would only buy enough to give them a small piece each.” And Andrew added, “There is a small boy here with five loaves of bread and two fish, but what is this among so many?” And then Jesus said, “Make the people sit down.” And they distributed the bread after which there were twelve baskets of bread left over. But many did not understand this as a sign; they saw only a material gift, a sign of God’s goodness to his people.

The bread which Jesus gives is his word and his person. He said, “I am the bread of life; those who eat me will live in me.”  Jesus told the crowd, all who are people of good will are carriers of the word and his witnesses too. This is the meaning of the twelve baskets of bread - and that this message should be carried beyond the limits of the crowd. 

The multiplication of the bread by Jesus for all who understand the sign which Jesus wishes to share is the announcement of the extension of the Church to all who have received his message and have the desire to pass it on.  The number of twelve baskets of remnants which were left over is symbolic. Twelve is a symbol of wholeness. This number means that the bread is the symbol of the word which should be carried to all humanity by those who have received it. 

In our world, who are the beneficiaries of the multiplication of bread?  All those who have received a solid Christian instruction, who are committed according to their baptism to renounce evil and everything which leads to evil, and who follow and imitate Jesus Christ. Who are the people who carry the word given by Jesus?  They are all those who recognize the mission implied in Baptism: parents bring bread to their children, teachers bring it through their mission of education, civil servants imbued by the Gospel bring it through the spirit in which they deal with the business of the State; workers in their work bring it by their Christian attitudes at work and with their companions, state workers bring it when they think of serving, not exploiting, and all those who struggle against injustice, corruption or cheating.

Each person in the simplicity of daily life, can be, in the spirit of Jesus, a servant to others and an instrument to bring the bread of God’s word. Following the first multiplication of bread, Jesus gave bread to his disciples who distributed it to those who were seated in groups. The light and love coming from Jesus and all those who received it went forth to bring it to all they would meet.  No Christian has an excuse for not being, at least to a small degree, one who shares bread, shares the word, and shares Jesus himself. 


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