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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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Peter and Paul: 
		<strong>Peter (d. 64?)</strong>. St. Mark ends the first half of his Gospel with a triumphant climax. He has recorded doubt, misunderstanding and the opposition of many to Jesus. Now Peter makes his great confession of faith: "You are the Messiah" (Mark 8:29b). It was one of the many glorious moments in Peter's life, beginning with the day he was called from his nets along the Sea of Galilee to become a fisher of men for Jesus. 
<p>The New Testament clearly shows Peter as the leader of the apostles, chosen by Jesus to have a special relationship with him. With James and John he was privileged to witness the Transfiguration, the raising of a dead child to life and the agony in Gethsemane. His mother-in-law was cured by Jesus. He was sent with John to prepare for the last Passover before Jesus' death. His name is first on every list of apostles. </p><p>And to Peter only did Jesus say, "Blessed are you, Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven" (Matthew 16:17b-19). </p><p>But the Gospels prove their own trustworthiness by the unflattering details they include about Peter. He clearly had no public relations person. It is a great comfort for ordinary mortals to know that Peter also has his human weakness, even in the presence of Jesus. </p><p>He generously gave up all things, yet he can ask in childish self-regard, "What are we going to get for all this?" (see Matthew 19:27). He receives the full force of Christ's anger when he objects to the idea of a suffering Messiah: "Get behind me, Satan! You are an obstacle to me. You are thinking not as God does, but as human beings do" (Matthew 16:23b). </p><p>Peter is willing to accept Jesus' doctrine of forgiveness, but suggests a limit of seven times. He walks on the water in faith, but sinks in doubt. He refuses to let Jesus wash his feet, then wants his whole body cleansed. He swears at the Last Supper that he will never deny Jesus, and then swears to a servant maid that he has never known the man. He loyally resists the first attempt to arrest Jesus by cutting off Malchus's ear, but in the end he runs away with the others. In the depth of his sorrow, Jesus looks on him and forgives him, and he goes out and sheds bitter tears. The Risen Jesus told Peter to feed his lambs and his sheep (John 21:15-17). </p><p><strong>Paul (d. 64?)</strong>. If the most well-known preacher today suddenly began preaching that the United States should adopt Marxism and not rely on the Constitution, the angry reaction would help us understand Paul's life when he started preaching that Christ alone can save us. He had been the most Pharisaic of Pharisees, the most legalistic of Mosaic lawyers. Now he suddenly appears to other Jews as a heretical welcomer of Gentiles, a traitor and apostate. </p><p>Paul's central conviction was simple and absolute: Only God can save humanity. No human effort—even the most scrupulous observance of law—can create a human good which we can bring to God as reparation for sin and payment for grace. To be saved from itself, from sin, from the devil and from death, humanity must open itself completely to the saving power of Jesus. </p><p>Paul never lost his love for his Jewish family, though he carried on a lifelong debate with them about the uselessness of the Law without Christ. He reminded the Gentiles that they were grafted on the parent stock of the Jews, who were still God's chosen people, the children of the promise. </p><p>In light of his preaching and teaching skills, Paul's name has surfaced (among others) as a possible patron of the Internet.</p> American Catholic Blog The way of the cross is unavoidably uphill. Christians don’t get to carry their cross downhill. Suffering has always been inextricably linked with Christianity, but those who carry their cross willingly in these times can serve as an example and inspiration to all of us.

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