Sunday, 29 July 2018 : Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time (Homily and Scripture Reflections)

Liturgical Colour : Green

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, on this Sunday, we listened to the word of God in the Scriptures, from the Old and New Testament, and from the Gospel passage, all forming a common theme of God feeding His people through wondrous deeds, by which He, through the prophets and His own Son, gave them food to eat, and then, how this sharing of meal and food are very symbolic to all of us as Christians.

In the first reading today, we heard from the Book of Kings of the moment when a man brought a food offering to the man of God, Elisha, the prophet God had appointed over His people. Elisha told the man to give the bread to the people, of which there were more than a hundred of them gathered. Evidently, there were not enough bread for the man immediately said that he could not have given the bread to all the people gathered there.

But the prophet Elisha told the man to trust in the word of God, and follow what He had asked him to do through the prophet. For God would indeed provide for His people, and true enough, all of the people had enough to eat from the few pieces of bread, and sharing the bread, they had even leftovers to be gathered. This miraculous event would happen again during the time of Jesus, the famous feeding of the five thousand men mentioned in our Gospel passage today.

At that time, there were five thousand men and many more uncounted women and children who were gathered at the plain where the Lord was teaching and preaching the truth of God. They had been following Him for several days, coming from nearby and even farther away towns and cities, not carrying much if any provisions or food with them. Naturally, they would also go hungry and the Lord had pity on them.

Thus, the Lord called for food to be distributed among the people, but there were only five loaves of bread and two fishes were present, brought by a young boy. The disciples doubted, and St. Andrew asked, just as the man in the story of the prophet Elisha, if there was enough bread and food to feed the huge multitudes of the people. But the Lord reassured them, and told them to do as He said. He made them all to sit down to be ready to feed from the bread and the fishes given from His hands.

The Lord blessed the bread and the fishes, and took the bread, and broke them, and giving them to His disciples, to be distributed to the people. From there, all of the people ate until they were all fully satisfied, and yet, still twelve full baskets of bread could be gathered in the end. This was indeed another seemingly impossible feat, similar to what the prophet Elisha had performed. But God’s grace was truly with His people, and God Himself, through His Son, Jesus, performed that before the people.

Then, if we read on to our second reading today, taken from the Epistle of St. Paul to the Church and the faithful in the city of Ephesus, what we have heard from the story of the breaking of the bread and the sharing of the food that was blessed by God, all of us can see a new significance and importance to what we have just heard. In fact, this is part of the central tenet of our faith and what it means for us to be Christians, as members of the One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church.

In that Epistle, St. Paul wrote about the faithful being part of one Body and having faith in one God. This is what it means for all of us Christians to belong to the Church of God, as St. Paul further elaborated in his Epistle to the Corinthians, mentioning that ‘you are Christ’s Body, and you are individually members of this Body.’ He was referring to the Church, the united body of the faithful, which together forms the Body of Christ, with Christ Himself as the Head.

All of us are united in this same Body, the Church of God, having received the same Spirit, and united by our common identity, that is the sharing of the Most Precious and Holy Body, and Blood of Our Lord, Jesus Christ, in the Eucharist. The word Holy Communion itself refers to this sharing of the same Body and Blood of Christ, which we receive at the celebration of the Holy Mass. Only those who have been baptised as faithful and devout members of the Church can receive Holy Communion.

This is not a statement of exclusivity, but rather a reiteration of the fact that all of us who have received Holy Communion and are in the good standing of faith and in a state of grace, worthy of continuing to receive the Eucharist, are united with each other, as members of God’s Holy Church, sharing in the broken Body of Christ. And in order to fully appreciate the significance of this fact, we must link what we have heard from our first reading and Gospel passages today, with the institution of the Eucharist itself.

At the Last Supper, the Lord broke the bread and shared the bread with His disciples, and did the same with the wine, which He passed to His disciples to drink. And He said that the bread is His Body, and the wine is His Blood. At that time, the disciples have yet to understand the full meaning of these words that Christ said to them. But after the events that transpired the next day, which we celebrate every year on Good Friday, the crucifixion itself, the whole truth of the Eucharist has been made available to all of us.

For the Lord crucified on Calvary, on His cross, is the fulfilment of the breaking of the bread and the institution of the Eucharist which He had done at the Last Supper. By laying down His life and being lifted up on the cross, He offered Himself, in His Body and Blood, the bread and wine offered, both at the Last Supper and at every celebration of the Holy Mass, to God the Father, Who accepted the perfect offering of His Son, and all of us who receive this same Body and Blood of Our Lord, now becomes one Body in Him.

By partaking the Body and Blood of Our Lord, we take the Lord into ourselves, and we become united in body and spirit with Him. And it is through this union that we have united ourselves as one Church through Christ, with all of our fellow brothers and sisters in faith. And now, if we have not taken this union, that is this Holy Communion we have as good and righteous members of the Church seriously, perhaps, this is the time that we begin to do so.

What does this mean? It means that whenever we commit a grave sin, we have sundered ourselves from this union with God, and hence the Church has ruled that based on Scriptural truth and tradition of the Apostles and the Church fathers, we have to go to confession before we are to receive the Eucharist, or else, we commit an even greater sin, of ignorance of the true nature of the Eucharist, that is Our Lord Himself, present in Body and Blood.

And if the Lord Himself has come to us and is willing to enter into our lives, then should we not take our faith much more seriously from now on? Shall we not turn ourselves wholeheartedly to the Lord, Who has loved us so much, that He feeds us with not just bread as He had done with the people of Elisha’s time and the people of the time of Jesus? But with the Bread of Life Himself, the Lord Who nourishes us by His own sacrifice on the cross?

Shall we turn to Him with regret for our sins and wickedness in life, if we have done Him injustice and wrong, disobeyed His laws and precepts, and committed sins that were grave enough to separate us from this Communion which we have with our fellow brethren in the one Church of God? Shall we from now on, truly believe in all of our hearts, minds and in all of our whole beings, that we shall have complete and absolute faith in God and in His Real Presence in the Eucharist?

Brothers and sisters in Christ, let us all seek to preserve this unity, this sanctity present in the Church. And how do we do so? It is by living our faith with genuine dedication and commitment, every single days of our life. If we see any of our brethren falling away from the way of faith, let us all help and pray for them, that they may return to the true faith, and we ourselves have to be exemplary in our lives, or else, how can we convince others to be faithful to God?

Let us all renew our commitment to God, and let us all live our lives with greater realisation of our existence as members of God’s holy Church, united with Him and with one another, fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. May the Lord be our strength, and may He continue to guide us and empower us, daily, that despite the challenges and the temptations to sin, we will always strive to be ever worthy of God, and of this holiness we are called to be as members of God’s one Body, one Church. Amen.

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