Hi everyone… here’s my homily for the 17th Sunday of Ordinary Time – July 26, 2015. The readings for today can be found at: http://usccb.org/bible/readings/072615.cfm . Thanks for stopping by, reading and sharing this blog on Facebook, Twitter, Reddit and elsewhere on socail media – and all your feedback and comments. God Bless – Fr. Jim
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A couple of weeks ago I was sitting at a meeting when a friend turned to me and asked if I had an extra pen. I took a look, and on the bottom of my backpack, I saw an old ball-point pen. The plastic outer shell of it was broken. It was kind of dirty too from dust, lint or whatever other particles made it into this bag that doubles as both my gym bag and briefcase. At any event, I pulled the pen out half not realizing I had done so, as I said “No, I don’t.”
He looked at me kind of in disbelief trying to figure out whether I was stupid or busting on him as he said “Uh – what’s that?” And I said “Oh this, you don’t want to use this, I mean look at it, it’s old, it’s broken, I doubt it even works.” He grabbed the pen, swirled it on his pad a few times and then it started working again (gotta hand it to Ballpoint, they do make a good pen) and he said “yeah – this is fine…” as he proceeded to use it for the next hour without even the slightest of difficulties.
Here I was – maybe out of embarrassment, or a mistaken belief that there’s no way this would be useful – prepared not to give my friend something he needed at the moment he needed it, because I had already judged the pen inadequate. Kind of a silly example, but we see something similar happening in today’s Gospel.
In this reading, we hear of one of Jesus’ most famous, most recounted and remembered of miracles – the feeding of the multitudes with 5 barley loaves and two fishes. As told by St. John, this version contains an interesting detail. When Jesus sees the crowd of well over 5,000 (considering that was only the number of men – with women and children, the crowd was probably well over 15,000) He shows his love, his concern and makes it clear that he wishes to get them something to eat. Turning to his closest followers, his inner circle, his apostles, Andrew seems to be the only one with any ideas (the others are probably thinking, as we hear in the other gospels, to send them home thinking the crowd is to big). Andrew points out that a young boy has come forward and offered all that he had: 5 loaves and 2 fish. But as soon as Andrew acknowledges this offer, very quickly, he dismisses it as inadequate saying “what good are these for so many?”
How often in our land of plenty and abundance do we look at the material things we possess as inadequate as we almost get into this competition of sorts with one another. (I’m just as bad as anyone else. As soon as a new iphone is released I start thinking how inferior, how much slower, how much worse my phone is in comparison)
But more personally, more directly: how often do we see the gifts, the talents, the abilities that we possess as “not good enough?” Sometimes it’s out of fear, embarrassment – where we’ve determined what we possess isn’t as good as it should be or worse out of comparing ourselves to others what we possess isn’t as good as somebody else.
I’ve heard it in parishioners saying they can’t volunteer to help teach CCD because “they’re not good enough” or I won’t sing with the choir because “there’s people who sing better than I do.” People will skip opportunities to help at a soup kitchen “what can one person do?” Sometimes people will resist going to visit someone who is ill or being with a family at a funeral saying “I don’t know what to say…” Even sometimes young men dismiss thoughts of a priestly vocation or young women think they could never be called to be a religious sister because “I’m not holy enough.” There’s a whole bunch of examples we can think of pertaining to each of us in our different aspects of life.
One lesson this Gospel tries to point out is that it’s not about us. We can get so worked up trying to evaluate things conceiving a plan, speculating how things will work out (and in the process, undermine how blessed we truly are as we compare ourselves to others) that we can get overwhelmed, doubtful in our faith and stifling ourselves into inaction.
Yet look at how Jesus takes this nameless boy’s example to speak to us today. If like him, we simply, humbly offer to Jesus all that we have, all that we possess, all that we are – it is then that He is able to work miracles through us and with us.
If that were something that was lived by every disciple, then this wouldn’t be simply a miracle story we recount once a year, remembering this one day where a multitude of people had their physical hunger alleviated. It would be a model of how Jesus Christ continues to transform the hearts of his believers and the world around them. Jesus would continue to be working miracles, fulfilling the deeper hungers, alleviating the spiritual and physical malnourishment that so many are suffering simply because we’ve been stuck asking ourselves as we look at our gifts, our talents, our possessions – “What good are these?”
Jesus is willing to show us exactly how good they are, if only we would be willing to share them.