The 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time at St Joseph Old Cathedral Oklahoma City

Saint Joseph Old Cathedral Oklahoma City

2 Kings 4, 42-44 + Psalm 145 + Ephesians 4, 1-5 + John 6, 1-15

This multiplication of the loaves is the only miracle of Jesus that is recorded in all four Gospels. That fact alone should signal to us that there is something essential to faith here. Philip and Andrew are introduced by John as players in this drama. The people are tired and hungry. Jesus looks up and sees them. Philip expresses a kind of helplessness – a sense of inadequacy or lack of resources. It is a feeling we have all known too often in the face of the enormous challenges life can throw at us. A sense that there just isn’t enough to go around, that we don’t have what it takes, that what we need to face the challenge is greater than we could ever imagine. The figure that Philip comes up with is like that. It is really big. Then there is Andrew, the one who introduces people to Jesus. Remember, it is Andrew who first began to follow Jesus after hanging around John the Baptist. It is Andrew who went to Peter and said, “Come and meet this one I have found.” Today it is Andrew who introduces that boy to Jesus, and by doing so, shifts all attention to Jesus.

The images John uses here can hardly be ignored. Going up the mountain evokes the memory of Moses, and if the mountain doesn’t bring Moses to mind, John mentions the Passover with deep memories of the manna God provided there. With that instruction to sit down on the grass there should spring to mind the images of the Psalm 23 and the Good Shepherd who prepares a table. So here, in John’s version of this moment, it is Jesus who distributes the abundant bread himself. In the other Gospel versions Jesus tells the disciples to feed the people. Here it is Jesus alone, the shepherd, who feeds his flock. In sharp contrast to a mentality of scarcity suggested by Philip and Andrew, there is Jesus and the abundance of life that faith opens to the human person.

Andrew introduces us today to this Jesus of abundance and fullness of life. This is more than a miracle that raises wonder and amazement. It is, with John’s presentation, a Sign that points to Jesus, the Bread of Life, the one for whom we hunger and thirst. It is a sign written that may lead us to believe that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God and that through him we may have life in his name.

We tell this story today and proclaim this Gospel because hunger still drives our lives. We tell this story today because a mentality of scarcity still influences our decisions and motivates our hoarding and possessiveness. These deep hungers drive us in too many different directions. If we are not conscious of them, or if we leave them unattended, they can drive us in many harmful and destructive ways. Attempting to fill the infinite longing of the human heart, people over eat, overwork, grasp greedily for more of everything. We consume others and use others in a desperate effort to satisfy those hungers. From that deepest of all longings, the longing to be loved, lovers demand too much of the other becoming bitter when the other is not able to fulfill the need for absolute love giving rise to jealousy, and sometimes violence. Even the great disparity in our world between those who have too much and those who have far too little flows from the unchecked hungers for satisfaction that shape so much of our economics. Advertising spends billions of dollars to fan into flame these hungers with promises to satisfy them all the while deeply invested in their growth and amplification not their satisfaction. The culture of this economy aims for instability, never for satisfaction that allows us to say: “enough.”

Jesus Christ seeks to satisfy the deepest hungers of our lives in contrast and sometimes in conflict with a consumer society that promises to fill us with what is finite and only leave us wanting more and more never finally coming to satisfy our longing for true bread.

So here we are, drawn together again by our hunger having discovered that nothing else will satisfy. The Passover is near. It is as near as the prayer and action at this altar. Introduced here to Jesus, we come to know the God who provides for the deepest hunger and thirst of our hearts. To discover Jesus here is to know the truth about those hungers in our spirits and to come to know the one who alone can satisfy them. In coming to know what is revealed, we come to know ourselves caught up in this sacred action as chosen ones, forgiven, loved, and fed on the very flesh and blood poured out for us once and for all.

Father Tom Boyer