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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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Monica: The circumstances of St. Monica’s life could have made her a nagging wife, a bitter daughter-in-law and a despairing parent, yet she did not give way to any of these temptations. Although she was a Christian, her parents gave her in marriage to a pagan, Patricius, who lived in her hometown of Tagaste in North Africa. Patricius had some redeeming features, but he had a violent temper and was licentious. Monica also had to bear with a cantankerous mother-in-law who lived in her home. Patricius criticized his wife because of her charity and piety, but always respected her. Monica’s prayers and example finally won her husband and mother-in-law to Christianity. Her husband died in 371, one year after his baptism. 
<p>Monica had at least three children who survived infancy. The oldest, Augustine (August 28) , is the most famous. At the time of his father’s death, Augustine was 17 and a rhetoric student in Carthage. Monica was distressed to learn that her son had accepted the Manichean heresy (all flesh is evil)  and was living an immoral life. For a while, she refused to let him eat or sleep in her house. Then one night she had a vision that assured her Augustine would return to the faith. From that time on, she stayed close to her son, praying and fasting for him. In fact, she often stayed much closer than Augustine wanted. </p><p>When he was 29, Augustine decided to go to Rome to teach rhetoric. Monica was determined to go along. One night he told his mother that he was going to the dock to say goodbye to a friend. Instead, he set sail for Rome. Monica was heartbroken when she learned of Augustine’s trick, but she still followed him. She arrived in Rome only to find that he had left for Milan. Although travel was difficult, Monica pursued him to Milan. </p><p>In Milan, Augustine came under the influence of the bishop, St. Ambrose, who also became Monica’s spiritual director. She accepted his advice in everything and had the humility to give up some practices that had become second nature to her (see Quote, below). Monica became a leader of the devout women in Milan as she had been in Tagaste. </p><p>She continued her prayers for Augustine during his years of instruction. At Easter, 387, St. Ambrose baptized Augustine and several of his friends. Soon after, his party left for Africa. Although no one else was aware of it, Monica knew her life was near the end. She told Augustine, “Son, nothing in this world now affords me delight. I do not know what there is now left for me to do or why I am still here, all my hopes in this world being now fulfilled.” She became ill shortly after and suffered severely for nine days before her death. </p><p>Almost all we know about St. Monica is in the writings of St. Augustine, especially his <i>Confessions</i>.</p> American Catholic Blog The Church really is my mother, too. She isn’t a vague maternal force for a generic collection of anonymous people. This Mother truly nurtures us—each one of us. And for those of us who are baptized Christians, the Church has actually given birth to us on a spiritual level.

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