Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time

Jul 20, 2021 | Gospel Reflections

Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time – Sister Katy Webster, SNDdeN

July 25, 2021

John 6: 1-15

The church presents us today with the fourth sign of Jesus when he walked the earth among the people narrated in the Gospel of the community of St. John. It is one of six accounts in the four Gospels of the multiplication of the loaves to feed a multitude of people. There are some details in this account that show the radicalness of this event.

Jesus is leaving Jerusalem, crossing the sea to the land considered pagan, outside of the law, at Passover time when the Jewish people were going to Jerusalem to worship, celebrate the deliverance of God’s People from the slavery of Egypt, and pay their debts with the Temple. This demand had become burdensome for the people, this trip every year to Jerusalem to pay tithes and offerings to be forgiven of transgressions against the law. Jesus was going in the opposite direction and a crowd, probably going to Jerusalem to fulfill the religious requirements in the Temple, had seen the healings that Jesus had done, changed course and went after him.

Jesus climbed the mountain and sat with the disciples and when he looks up he sees a crowd coming. Jesus’ first concern was the people’s hunger. This crowd was away from their homes, outside their communities, a pilgrim people going to Jerusalem at Passover time. Jesus asks his group how are we going to procure food for these people? Philip responds within the known system by imagining money. He said to Jesus, there is no money to buy bread for all these people, not even to have a little piece. Another disciple, Andrew, had done a search among the people and found a boy with five loaves and two fish. The bread was of barley, food of the poor. From a child the solution begins to appear.

Jesus asks the disciples to tell the people to sit down, relax, get comfortable. He doesn’t say “Line up”. He creates a friendly, relational environment. It is an indication that there will be enough food for everyone, there is no need to be anxious. Scholars also tell us that at that time it was only free people who sat when they ate. Jesus was inviting these people to assume their status as free people with dignity. Certainly in that crowd there were slaves, servants and employees who had accompanied their masters to Jerusalem and were used to eating the crumbs as they stood waiting for the next order in the masters’ houses. This was a revolutionary invitation.

Suddenly grass appears in the desert where people can sit. Even nature welcomes this sign.
Once the people are seated comfortably, Jesus gives thanks and distributes the bread and fish to all present who ate and were satisfied. It is a phrase of abundance, abundance and satisfaction. The abundance was so great that twelve baskets of leftovers were collected. Twelve is a number that suggests totality: 3 (the Trinity, complete and perfect community) times 4 (four points in the world, everywhere). This sharing is a sign that can end hunger for everyone around the world. Jesus signals that there is a way of satisfying the hunger in this world, if there is sharing, an attitude of community and gratitude for the production.

Jesus realizes that the people want to take him and make him a king, thinking thus there will always be food. Jesus leaves the scene. The people have not yet understood the meaning of the sign. It is not Jesus who works a miracle, but he gives a sign that announces that the people have the solution to the evil of hunger in their midst. The child knows, because he was not afraid to share everything he had.

In this Covid pandemic, a lot of people have been in great need. We were surprised that here in Anapu, there were no cases of hunger, people going hungry, having nothing, nothing to eat. Why? It became clear that this was because the people were sharing. Families and neighbors noticed the difficulties of others and helped. Groups carried out campaigns in the municipality, without much noise and fanfare, gathered food, and made baskets of basics and distributed them among the people who were experiencing difficulties. Nationally people have donated and distributed tons of food to people who are in need.

Right now we are seeing places that do not have enough vaccine for their population. Is it because there is not enough vaccine in this world? Is it not possible to produce enough vaccine for everyone? Or are there people manipulating the market to make a profit from the vaccine? The priority is not to distribute enough vaccine for everyone to be immunized against this virus, saving lives. There are people who use this need as a way to increase personal and empresarial wealth.

If the priority of all people in the world were to guarantee food and vaccine for everyone on this planet, how would the actions of governments, companies, entities and communities be different. When you read this last sentence, did you feel a reaction like: “this is impossible!”? Right. I feel the same way, but I’m going to die trying to act to make it real because I do believe this is exactly what Jesus was teaching through this sign.
I cannot write a reflection for July 25 without remembering that this is the day, the Sunday that the Forest Pilgrimage remembering Sister Dorothy’s assassination but celebrating all the seeds she planted that are now growing, assuming the struggle for which she died. This Pilgrimage only is possible because the people of the Communities of Anapu share, giving rice, beans, meat and much more to satisfy the pilgrims. There are always leftovers. It is the rehearsal for the new vision that Jesus signals. The pandemic has kept us off the road, but next year, we will be back!

What do you see, hear, do that helps you believe that this revolution Jesus signals is possible?


John 6: 1-15

Jesus went across the Sea of Galilee. A large crowd followed him, because they saw the signs he was performing on the sick. Jesus went up on the mountain, and there he sat down with his disciples. The Jewish feast of Passover was near.

When Jesus raised his eyes and saw that a large crowd was coming to him, he said to Philip, “Where can we buy enough food for them to eat?” He said this to test him, because he himself knew what he was going to do.

Philip answered him, “Two hundred days?’ wages worth of food would not be enough for each of them to have a little.'” One of his disciples, Andrew, the brother of Simon Peter, said to him, “There is a boy here who has five barley loaves and two fish; but what good are these for so many?” Jesus said, “Have the people recline.” Now there was a great deal of grass in that place. So the men reclined, about five thousand in number.

Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining, and also as much of the fish as they wanted. When they had had their fill, he said to his disciples, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” So they collected them, and filled twelve wicker baskets with fragments from the five barley loaves that had been more than they could eat. When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.” Since Jesus knew that they were going to come and carry him off to make him king, he withdrew again to the mountain alone.

The Gospel of the Lord


Meet Sister Katy Webster, SNDdeN

Katy Webster (known as Kátia in Brazil) entered Notre Dame at Ilchester, Maryland in 1976. After initial formation in the Baltimore-Washington, DC area, Katy was missioned to Brooklyn, New York. She taught sixth graders for nearly 5 years at St. Catherine of Genoa School. In February, 1984 Katy was sent to Brazil by the Sisters of Notre Dame de Namur, with the blessings of students and teachers of St. Catherine’s. Kátia lived in Maranhão for 9 years. Then in 1993, she moved to Pará where she has lived at Centro Nazaré on the Transamazon Highway, Altamira, Anapu and Itaituba. Kátia is currently back in Anapu. Kátia has lived with and among the people who struggle to live community while facing the greed of ranchers, loggers and lately the mining companies, and always learning far more than teaching. It is a blessed journey of faith and trust in the good God.