A Reflection on the Readings for the 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time, July 25, 2021
Reading I: 2 Kings 4:42-44
Responsorial Psalm:: 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18
Reading II: Ephesians 4:1-6
Gospel: John 6:1-15
A cursory reading of our scriptures for this Sunday makes it clear that our readings are very Eucharistic in nature. In both our first reading from 2nd Kings and our gospel from John, no matter how large the crowd, there is always something left over, the Eucharistic is never depleted. The golden thread that binds our scriptures together this week is the Eucharist; the source and summit of our faith: “For thus says the LORD, ‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.’”
Further on in chapter 6 of the Gospel of John we come to “The Bread of Life Discourse” for which this chapter is famous and in which Jesus tells us: “For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink” (6:55). So, the Eucharist is certainly nourishment for our bodies but, much more importantly, it is nourishment for our souls. “Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life” (6:54). “Unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you do not have life within you” (6:53). These passages could not possibly make it more abundantly clear to us that the Eucharist is the Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ. It is our faith in Jesus, and in the Eucharist, and in the church he left us that is our salvation. How often do we take the Eucharist for granted or receive it without due reverence?
The Multiplication of the Loaves is the only miracle account found in all four of the gospels which, again, points to the important connection between the multiplication of the loaves and the Eucharist. We are also told: “The Jewish feast of Passover was near” (6:4). The feast of Passover is the Jewish feast of unleavened bread, another connection to the unleavened bread of the Eucharist. In addition, we are told: “Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them…” (6:11); another reference to the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in which Jesus, through the ministry of a priest, takes, blesses, and distributes the Eucharist to the faithful.
We are also told that when the people saw the multiplication of the loaves and fishes Jesus performed, they said: “This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world” (6:14). In this case, the “Prophet” is the prophet that Moses promised that God would raise up in place of Moses in Deuteronomy 18:15-19; a promise that is fulfilled in Jesus, the Messiah. The Old and New Testaments are NOT two separate books of scripture; they are directly related to one another. What is promised in the Old is fulfilled in the New and this passage is a testament to that truth.
Our second reading from St. Paul’s Letter to the Ephesians reminds us that we who believe in the Eucharist and in the church are all one body. That does not mean we are all the same. We speak different languages and come from different cultures, so the church is a unity of diversity. We all have different gifts and talents, but we are called by God to use those gifts and talents for the betterment of the One Body. However, human sin and the consequences of that sin have always threatened the unity of the One Body. Therefore, St. Paul calls upon us to bear with one another through love and to: “Preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”
It is difficult to understand how anyone could read chapter 6 of the Gospel of John and not recognize that it is through the Eucharist and the church that makes it available to us that our salvation is made available to us. That salvation is not guaranteed, we must believe in the words of Christ in that chapter and in the church he left for us and receive the Eucharist with pure and contrite hearts. And we must listen to St. Paul’s admonition to live our lives in such a way that we “Preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.”
May we someday come to recognize that the differences between us are really simply different expressions of our gifts and talents within the church, and thereby may we work to strengthen the bond of peace. And may we all pray for those outside the church who wish us harm.
Author: Ric Cross