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Bible Reflections View Comments

It's Easier Than You Might Think
By Diane M. Houdek
Source: Bringing Home the Word
Published: Sunday, June 2, 2013
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If you’ve ever watched a really good cook whip up a meal or a fancy dessert, you’ve likely been dazzled by the ease with which he or she seems to work. Television chefs have a staff of assistants to pull together and measure ingredients and the magic of the camera reduces the time it takes to make a meal. But even in real life, experienced cooks have a routine and even some shortcuts that simplify their tasks.

In today’s Gospel, the disciples ask Jesus to dismiss the crowds so that the gathered multitude can seek food and shelter in the surrounding countryside. His immediate response is, “You give them something to eat.” They are rather taken aback by this, as most of us would be. Their focus is on what they don’t have and can’t do. Jesus, on the other hand, looks at what they have and makes it enough.

There will always be a debate among Scripture scholars and homilists about whether the true miracle here was Jesus miraculously turning a little food into a great deal of food, enough for thousands, or (perhaps more difficult to believe!) whether the people in the crowd were persuaded by his word and example to share with one another the provisions that they had brought with them to this event. The latter theory is not meant to explain away a supernatural event. Rather, it’s an acknowledgment that however much we might value charity, we may find it hard to put into practice in our daily lives. We need to be reminded of the source of our blessings.

The disciples, I suspect, had a tendency to want to keep a tight hold on their easy and exclusive access to Jesus. That seems to be human nature. We’re not much different today.

Whether it’s our material possessions or our spiritual gifts, we can fall into a kind of grasping selfishness that goes against the example Jesus gave us.

From the first days after his election, Pope Francis continued a theme that had been prominent in his work in Buenos Aires. Again and again he reminded both the hierarchy and all Catholics that the reason the church exists is not for its own spiritual and material enrichment but as a way to bring Christ to the outskirts and the margins of society, to reach out to those who need to be fed, to bring the Good News of salvation to those who most need to hear it.

Our first reading on this Sunday comes to us from the earliest days of the chosen people, when a mysterious figure known only as Melchizedek blesses Abram and offers him bread and wine. From that day to this, the same elements indicate blessing, thanksgiving, the grace and providence of God.

The central action of our Eucharist involves the transformation of bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ not as some spiritual spectacle, but as a gift and nourishment for his followers. It was given freely and openly. Like the gift of bread on the hillside, the Eucharist is both simple and universal.

We as the Body of Christ go forth from the Eucharist on Sunday to transform our neighborhoods and our world. It’s easier than we might think. When we fall into the trap of thinking that our resources are limited, we need to bring what we have to Christ and let him show us how it can be enough. We always have others to help us in this task, making up for our lack with their abundance.


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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

The Passion and the Cross Ronald Rolheiser

 
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