Seventeenth Sunday: Sharing the Presence of the Lord.
During the next five Sundays, the gospel readings will be taken from the sixth chapter of the Gospel of John, the great discourse on the Bread of Life. The readings begin with the multiplication of the loaves and fishes.
The sixth chapter of John begins with the feeding of the crowds. We usually refer to this as the multiplication of the loaves, but I want you to hold that thought for a second, because there is a lot more to this miracle than food for dinner. On a deeper scale, the miracle is sharing in the Lord of all that He is. It is a miracle of being filled with the food the Lord gives, himself.
Quite a while ago the Franco Zeferrelli's film Jesus of Nazareth united Mary Magdalene with the miracle of the loaves and fishes. For one poignant instant the camera focused on Mary Magdalene holding the bread that Christ gives in her hand and looking at Jesus. The continual gift of the Lord led Mary Magdalene to conversion. Holding the bread and looking at the Lord she realizes that he alone satisfies her needs. As the hymn prays, "He satisfies the hungry heart."
Now I want you to consider closely the words of the gospel. There are five thousand men, not counting women and children, and only five loaves of bread available. When the disciples, in this account, ask what they should do, Jesus tells them that the bread he will give them will be enough. He takes the loaves and the fish, gives thanks and tells the disciples to have the people partake of these. We often refer to this as the miracle of the multiplication of the loaves, but actually, the word multiplication and the concept of more than five loaves is not in the account. Maybe it's all a failure of our imaginations. Consider it this way: When you have company for dinner you put out a loaf of good Greek bread. Everyone pulls off a hunk of the bread. You glance to see how much bread is still there. There is still enough for another go around. A little while later, someone passes the bread around, and everyone takes off another hunk. You glance at the basket again. There is still enough for another go around.
The miracle of the loaves and fish is a miracle of our sharing the gifts of Christ. He gives us plenty for all that we are called upon to feed. Our union with him satisfies the hungry hearts of our families, our neighbors, and our world.
Sometimes we question whether or not we can be the spiritual leaders the Lord calls on us to be. Am I good enough as a priest to give you all you need? How can I? There are so many of you and just one of me? And I'm a sinner, continually tempted to do things that are very ungodly. But it is not my bread that I have been called upon to give you, it is the bread the Lord gives me for you. And that is always enough, despite my human limitations.
Perhaps you have asked yourselves. am I good enough to be a spiritual leader in my house? Can I bring my wife, my husband, my children to God? Perhaps some of you might say, "I'm not that spiritual. I'm inclined to sin. I can't give my children what they need to become good Christians." Well, these thoughts are incorrect, for the bread you need to feed your family, the presence of Christ in your home is enough for you. Through your union with Christ, through your sacrament, the sacrament of marriage, through your determination to do your best to serve God, Jesus provides all you need. And the presence of the Lord you cultivate in that bread basket never runs out. There is plenty of food, plenty of Christ for the family. There is plenty of bread in the basket when the bread comes from the Lord.
We have to stay united to the Lord. His bread, which might appear little in your eyes and my eyes, a mere five barley loaves, is plenty for thousands of people.
Your homes are churches. Your families are united in the Lord. Your union with God as a family gives meaning and direction to your lives. Never, never feel that you are not good enough to be spiritual leaders, particularly of your children. Husbands, do not feel that you can not be a source of God's love for your wives. Wives do not feel that you can not be a source of God's love for your husbands. United in the Lord, he multiplies the love that is his presence in an infinite manner. He satisfies the hungry hearts.
We need to nourish the presence of the Lord. You are doing that right now, by attending Mass and receiving the Body of Christ in the Eucharist. We need to worship the Lord together in our homes, the little churches. Perhaps, you should consider praying together in your homes if you are not already doing this. Before meals and at bedtimes is an excellent opportunity for families to get in the habit of daily prayer. Pray to God together to keep you family strong as a family and strong in his love, the same thing. In your homes celebrate your union as a family. And never feel that anything you do is insignificant. Wonderful things can happen with just five barley loaves when the bread comes from the Lord.