Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time


Lectionary: 110

 2 Kgs 4:42-44

A man came from Baal-shalishah bringing to Elisha, the man of God,
twenty barley loaves made from the firstfruits,
and fresh grain in the ear.
Elisha said, “Give it to the people to eat.”
But his servant objected,
“How can I set this before a hundred people?”
Elisha insisted, “Give it to the people to eat.”
“For thus says the LORD,
‘They shall eat and there shall be some left over.'”
And when they had eaten, there was some left over,
as the LORD had said.

The Prophet Elisha (“My God is salvation”) was the successor to the fiery Prophet Elijah who preached that the Israelites turn back to YHWH and stop worshiping the neighboring gods. The parallels between these northern kingdom prophets and Jesus are undeniable. They both are healers and both miraculously feed numerous people with limited means. In Elisha’s telling the servant to offer 20 loaves of bread to feed 100 people is not just about calories; his request is to nourish their soul as much as their bodies. Jesus too was on a mission to bring nourishment to his follower’s souls, maybe even more so than their bodies. It is no wonder that Jesus disciples saw him as a new Elisha. Yet Christ was not satisfied with that description of him. Christ’s message is not to repent and return back to the(worship of) God of their ancestors, he is not simply about putting them back on their path. Jesus is leading them in a new direction to God, new path. It is a boy that offers the loaves and fishes; it is the old fishermen that don’t accept them, and it is Christ who takes those loaves, offers a blessing of thanksgiving, and distributes them. The boy sees the world through new eyes; where the apostles see the impossible, the boy sees the possibilities; and it is Jesus who accepts these possibilities, blesses them, and offers them back. As much as Jesus is feeding that crowd of followers, he is feeding his Apostles and he is teaching these Apostles to in turn feed these crowds. As Jesus preached across and around the Sea of Galilee, he was teaching these fishermen to become Fishers of Men. As they had dragged a net through the water in search of fish, Jesus too worked through that seacoast area drawing out the people of God, in search of Gods people. As the barley loaves were the first fruits of the harvest, so too were these people who were drawn to his teaching.They were his first harvest for the Kingdom of God. As was the custom to offer the first fruits of the field up to God, so too does Jesus offer a blessing of thanksgiving for the first fruits of His harvest; and in that blessing of that first fruit of Jesus’s harvest, he feeds them and offers nourishment for their  Journey. This feeding is not though just for their souls , it truly is for their bodies. They are on a bodily journey and for that they do need nourishment and they need that nourishment throughout the journey.Nourishment is not a one time affair. That nourishment might have begun at the feeding of the multitudes discussed in the Gospel, but it continues today with the Mass.

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