17th Sunday Year B S Martin’s 2021
“He himself knew exactly what he was going to do” Jn 6: 6
After the trail blazer last Sunday, we do find ourselves, today, centring our thoughts on the Gospel of John as we shall be for the next five Sundays. Not only on the Gospel of John but hearing the most famous, probably, of all the miracles: the Feeding of the Five thousand being the only miracle recorded in each of the Gospels. As the trail blazer also foretold this Sunday’s Gospel is an introduction to five more weeks when the Gospel will be based on the discourse in John, entitled by scholars, ‘The Bread of Life.”
Is the miracle so familiar to us that we can overlook its hidden teaching – for it is far more than a pre-cursor to the Institution of the Eucharist, which of course it most assuredly is as it takes place “Shortly before the Jewish Feast of Passover” [v.4] and as we know the act of institution is omitted by S John. I believe it is in fact an event which sets the goals for the Church that would go on to celebrate the latter event and gathers us again today.
Had we read from the Gospel of Mark we would have been reminded that the miracle in fact happened shortly after Jesus had been informed of the death of John the Baptist [Mk 6:30]. Some would argue that it was for some sort of regrouping that Jesus had to quote Mark himself: -
“he and his disciples withdrew to a lonely place by the Sea of Galilee.”
In that we see our first lesson in that Jesus first welcomed the crowds who had followed them and then far from basking in their adulation turned, first, to concern for their physical welfare.
During the last year we have seen how many faith communities have worked to provide food and clothing in some areas, at home and abroad, worst affected by the Pandemic. Here, throughout we have continues to support the work of the Food Bank, exampled by the largest Harvest Collection for many years. Preparing this homily based not so much on the miracle itself, but all that surrounds it, I saw a warning that such essential work, that for many Christian communities has been lacking in the past is only part of the calling, for we must not neglect the work of evangelising. Jesus certainly is concerned for the crowd’s physical welfare, but he wants them to continue to be fed on his further words as well.
So, we come to the part of the event that my text comes from. Once again, the account in Mark adds to the drama and the impact of the scene for, Mark tells us that the disciples responded to Jesus’ concern by wanting to send the crowds away, but Jesus said to feed them themselves, in John’s account first by asking the question: -
“Where can we buy some bread…?”
leading to John’s aside, as I have chosen as our text: -
“He himself knew exactly what he was going to do.”
provide us with a powerful warning on allowing God to have a chance. Of this, William Temple, the twentieth century theologian and one time Archbishop of Canterbury writes in his book, ‘Readings in S John’s Gospel’: _
“We batter at the doors of heaven with prayers demanding audience for our proposals whereby God may save his world or promote his purpose. Faith consists in leaving him to take his own way.”
So, thus far we have seen the call to social ministry and the call to the ministry of evangelisation given equal place within the eucharistic communities who to this day are reflecting on the great Miracle of the Feeding of the Five Thousand. There is, I believe, one further lesson to be heard and that comes from – let us say – the co-star of the event – the small boy who was to give up his lunch! That lunch was ridiculously small and given the situation one might be tempted to think that Andrew had a hint of sarcasm in his voice. It does not matter, the truth is that each, and every, individual member of the eucharistic communities of the Church is called to offer to God all that we are and to trust that even if we think it is inadequate, we can trust God to take it, bless it, break it open and multiply it!
“He himself knew exactly what he was going to do”
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