17th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 28, 2024

 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 28, 2024

2 kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15


Theme: “The Hand of the Lord Feeds Us; He Answers All Our Needs”

Last Sunday’s Gospel, taken from chapter 6 of the Gospel of Mark, was the story of the return of the Twelve apostles from their mission. To avoid people’s disturbance, Jesus and his disciples went on a boat to a private place to rest. However, a large crowd followed them on foot and arrived before them. Seeing their determination and hunger for him, Jesus had compassion for them. The crowd was portrayed as the sheep without a shepherd. Jesus, acting as the Good Shepherd, took care of them, first, by teaching them the Word of God (Mark 6:30-34) and second, by feeding them with physical food (see the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand, which immediately follows last Sunday’s Gospel [Mark 6:35-44].) Today, we read the story of Jesus feeding Five thousand people, not from Mark’s  Gospel but from John’s version. Note that for the next five Sundays, the Church sets aside the reading of the Gospel of Mark and suggests a meditation on the “Bread of Life” discourse found in chapter six of the Gospel of John. The passage we heard today introduces us to this long meditation. Jesus miraculously fed over five thousand people who followed him. Elisha, in the first reading, fed a hundred people also miraculously. Paul gives us ethical instruction from the prison, which summons us to a life “worthy of the call [we] have received.” We sang with our Psalmist, "The hand of the Lord feeds us; he answers all our needs.”

What the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew, Mark, and Luke) call “miracles’, John calls them “signs.” He recorded seven of them in his Gospel. This one we read today is the fourth sign and the only one found in all four Gospels (occurring twice in Mattew and Mark and once in Luke.) John’s version differs from the Synoptics, notably in the roles of Philip and Andrew, the proximity of the Passover (see v. 4), the allusion to Elisha (see v. 9,) and the connotation of a new exodus. As an introduction to chapter 6, our story serves as an entry point into the discourse on Jesus, the Bread of Life that the sacred author develops in 6:22-71. Today’s Gospel text is the “miracle” account with profound allegories. The author first gives the setting: the sign took place across the Sea of Galilee on an unnamed mountain, the Passover feast was near, and the crowd followed Jesus because they saw the signs he performed on the sick (vv. 1-4). Then, he narrates the details of the sign (vv. 5-14). He ends the story as he began it: Jesus returning to the mountain. (v. 15).

  The evangelist commences our text with “After this,” which alludes to a tough debate between Jesus and the Jews in chapter 5. Jesus cured a man at the pool on the Sabbath (5:1-9); the Jews were against and began to persecute Jesus and even tried to kill him because, according to them, Jesus first broke the Sabbath, and second, he called God his Father, making himself equal to God (5:10-47). Our text picks up from here. After all this drama, Jesus left the Jews and crossed the Sea of Galilee, also known as the Sea of Tiberias. A large crowd followed him. The narrator gives the motivation for their following Jesus: The signs Jesus performed on the sick (v.2). These signs are the healing of the royal official’s son (second sign) (4:46-54) and the cure of the man at the pool on a Sabbath (the third sign) (5:1-9). Jesus continues to perform multiple signs in our lives, families, and societies today. Our lives are the first and most significant sign. Let us look at all the blessings we receive from God and use them as our motivation to follow him.

The narrator adds two essential details alluding to the Exodus experience. The first detail situates Jesus up on the mountain (v. 3). The evangelist intended probably to portray Jesus as the new Moses. The second detail associates the Jewish feast of Passover with this sign of the multiplication of the loaves and feeding of over five thousand people (v. 4). Note that the Jews celebrate the feast of Passover every year to commemorate the day God liberated their ancestors from the slavery in Egypt. So, by situating Jesus up on the Mountain and mentioning that the Jewish feast of Passover was near, the evangelist tried to teach his audience and us that Jesus is the new Moses, who feeds us, not with manna, but with his Body and Blood to grant us eternal life. The Jews celebrate the Passover feast with unleavened bread, and in our Gospel story, Jesus also fed the crowds with loaves of bread. Here, the evangelist means that Jesus is the Bread of Life. Whoever eats his Flesh and drinks his Blood has eternal life.

In the body of the text, the narrator stresses some essential points. (1) On the mountain, Jesus raises his eyes and sees the large crowd approaching him (v. 5a). In biblical language, the mountain is the place of the meeting with God. It symbolizes the place for prayer. Saying that Jesus is on the mountain is to say he is in intimate contact with his Father through prayer, which allows him to raise his eyes, see the crowd coming to him, and realize their needs. Our local Church is our “mountain” where we come into intimate contact with God our Father in the Eucharistic celebration. Our families and hearts are also the “mountains” where we meet God and pray to him. A prayer life enables us to raise our eyes, see all people who approach us, and realize how much they need our attention, smile, encouragement, love, and help. Let us always be in permanent contact with our Lord through prayer, enabling us to see and help our needy brothers and sisters.

(2) Unlike in the Synoptic Gospels, in John, Jesus takes the initiative to find a way to feed the crowd through his question to Philip. Also, Jesus is not ignorant but aware of everything because he knows what he will do. The disciples do not understand how the crowd can be fed (5b-7.) This parallels Elisha’s servant, who did not comprehend how twenty barley loaves could feed a hundred people, as Elisha instructed them in our first reading (see 2Kgs 4:42-44). This section teaches us that we should not necessarily wait for the people to ask before we can help. Instead, like Jesus, we should realize the needs of the people and initiate actions to come to their aid. Also, like Jesus’ disciples in the Gospel and Elisha’s servants in the first reading, our lack of understanding and trust in God’s power prevents us from doing good. We do not need to have abundance before we help. Jesus and Elisha call us to assist people with all we have, even little ones, with great faith.

(3) The five barley loaves and two fish that Jesus multiplies miraculously did not come from the disciples but from one boy in the crowd. Jesus instructs his disciples to have everybody recline on a great deal of glass, which invokes the memory of Psalm 23:2, “In green pastures, he makes me lie down.” (NABRE). Meanwhile, he takes the five loaves of bread, gives thanks, and himself, not the disciples, distributes them with the fish to the people (vv. 8-11.) Here, the evangelist introduces us to the mystery of the Mass, especially the part of the consecration. First, our Holy Mother Church teaches us that, like the boy of our Gospel who brought his food and presented it to Jesus, when we come to Church for Mass, each individual brings gifts to God (Treasures, Talents, and Times). Jesus uses and blesses what we have and what we present to him to take care of our Church and our brothers and sisters. Second, Jesus's actions in multiplying the five barley loaves and two fish (taking, giving thanks, and distributing) echo the Eucharistic memory. The word “thanks” in Greek eucharisteo means Eucharist. This is the moment of consecration of the Mass, during which, through the hands of the priest who acts in persona Christi, the gifts we bring to the altar are transformed miraculously. The simple bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Christ; our offering (checks, cash, and goods) become spiritual resources to help the Church and God’s people; our prayer intentions, for example, sadness, anxiety, and any difficulties we go through, get transformed into joy, happiness, and any solution we need. Third, when it is time for the Holy Communion, Jesus himself shares his Body and Blood with us through the ordained and Eucharistic ministers. Jesus uses their hands at this specific moment to feed his people. The time for the Holy Communion is a very special time during which we enter into mystical contact with Christ and become one with him and one with our fellow Christians. This is the unity that Saint Paul invites us to preserve in the second reading we heard (Eph 4:1-6).  

(4) Over five thousand people ate at their fill. Jesus ordered his disciples to pick up the leftovers, not to waste them. Twelve baskets of the fragments were collected. The number twelve alludes to the twelve tribes of Israel and means here all humanity, including us today. So, all people are “collected” with the intention not to waste them but to save them. In seeing this sign or “miracle,” the crowd considered Jesus as a prophet who was to come into the world. Probably, they had in mind a prophet like Moses or Elijah (see note on Jn 1:21; Dt 18:15; Mal 3:1, 23)  (vv. 12-14). Jesus continues to order his ministers of our time to “collect us” so that we might not be wasted but be saved. As baptized Christians, we, too, are Jesus’ disciples today where we live. Our mission is to collect our brothers and sisters so they might not be “wasted” but saved. We accomplish this mission when we let prayer life nurture our relationships with God and our fellow humans; when we raise our spiritual eyes and see the needs of the people and come to their aid, even with little things we have; when we bring our offering (Treasure, Talents, and Time) and let Jesus use them and transform them to bless the people and serve his Church. Jesus’ mission is to lose no one. His mission is our mission. Let us not lose anyone.

The evangelist ends our Gospel story with a note saying that Jesus, knowing the crowd's intention to carry him off and make him king, withdrew again to the mountain alone (v. 15). He started the story with Jesus going up on the mountain, and he finished it with Jesus going back to the mountain. I mentioned above that in the biblical language, the “mountain” is the place of the meeting with God. So, in our Gospel, Jesus enters into an intimate relationship with his Father in prayer before and after he ministers to the crowd. He sets an example for us. Prayer must be our daily spiritual food. Before and after important activities we do, we should involve God.

Through the liturgy of this Mass, let us pray to God that we become the men and women of prayer, capable of seeing the needs of our brothers and sisters, coming to their aid, and “picking them up” so that they may not be wasted but saved. Amen.  


Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD


16th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 21, 2024

 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 21, 2024

Jeremiah 23:1-6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34


Theme: Let us Follow Jesus Fervently, and His Heart will Move with Pity For us

In last Sunday’s liturgy, we meditated on the three reasons Jesus called his disciples and continues to call us today. The three reasons are: To be with Jesus, Represent him, and Minister in his name. Jesus has sent us on a mission, shared with us his authority over unclean spirits, and empowered us to preach repentance, drive out demons, and cure the sick. He called us not to focus on material needs; instead, we must rely on divine providence. If we experience rejection as he himself did, we were taught to shake the dust off our feet in testimony against those who would reject God’s mission. Continuing with the same topic, today, our Holy Mother Church wants us to meditate on another aspect of our mission: to feel hungry for Jesus, follow him with enthusiasm and determination, and Let him Shepherd us. In our first reading, God promised to provide a new king from David’s line who would shepherd his people justly. This promise is fulfilled in Jesus, who, in our Gospel, shepherded the vast crowd. Let us minister to our fellow brothers and sisters, breaking down “the dividing wall of enmity” and bringing them close to Jesus as Saint Paul exhorts us in our second reading.

Our Gospel passage continues the stories we heard on Sunday, July 7th and 14th. After experiencing a lack of faith in Nazareth, his native place (6:1-6), Jesus saw how urgent it was to evangelize the people. He then sent his Twelve apostles on a mission two by two (6:7-13). The lectionary skipped the stories of Herod’s Opinion of Jesus (vv. 14-16) and the Death of John the Baptist (vv. 17-29). Today’s story is the Return of the Twelve from their mission (vv. 30-34). It precedes the story of the Feeding of the Five Thousand (vv. 35-44). Our Gospel passage is a narrative account. V. 30 starts the story by announcing the return of the “Twelve Sent” from their mission and their report to their Master Jesus. Vv. 31-33, which constitute the body of the text, contrast the need of the Twelve and Jesus to rest after working hard with the need of the crowd to hear the Word of God. V. 34 concludes the story with Jesus, despite his weariness, choosing to teach the crowd over resting.

The “Twelve Sent” return from their mission. They gather together with Jesus and report to him how they did in the mission (v. 30). Remember that their mission and ours consist of being with Jesus, representing him, and ministering in his name. Through this verse, our Holy Mother Church reminds us that every day, Jesus sends us on a mission in our daily lives and work. At the end of each day, before we retire to bed, for instance, we are called to gather together with our Lord and reflect on how we stayed in contact with him, represented him, and ministered in his name in our families, neighborhoods, societies, and wherever we live and work. This is the essence of daily prayer. In acknowledging our shortcomings, we seek forgiveness; in recognizing our successes, we praise him, who sends us, and ask for more graces for the next mission on a new day. We are Jesus’ emissaries where we live and work. Let us be mindful to report to him what we do daily through prayers.

Jesus is happy to hear what his disciples did on their mission. Recognizing their hard work, he invites them to a quiet place to rest. However, many people are still coming to them, not allowing them even to eat. Wanting to escape the crowd's disturbance, Jesus and his disciples went off in the boat by themselves to a different place. Yet, the people from all the towns follow them in haste on foot and arrive at the place before them (vv. 31-33). There are three things the crowd did in this part of the Gospel that the Church calls us to meditate on: they hastened, followed on foot, and arrived before Jesus and his disciples.

First, the crowd “hastened” to follow Jesus. Hastening shows how they needed Jesus and were hungry to hear God’s Word. We, too, should hasten when we come to Jesus, especially at the Eucharistic celebration. We do not follow Jesus at Mass because Sunday is the day of obligation, and we avoid being reproached. Instead, we should come to Mass because we love Jesus and feel hungry to hear his Word and to receive his Body and Blood in the Holy Communion. Therefore, we must hasten and be happy.  Second, the crowd followed Jesus “on foot.” They did not have cars as we do today. Walking a long distance shows how they were determined and motivated to make their meeting with Jesus possible. We, too, are called to show Jesus how we are interested and determined to meet him at Masses and other spiritual activities no matter what. Third, the crowd arrived at the place before Jesus and his disciples (v. 33). Note that they followed Jesus and his disciples on foot while Jesus’s group used the boat. Which is a faster trip than walking. This verse encourages us to always come to Church on time, not late. Our attitude and preparation before Mass determine if we are happy and long to meet our Lord. Jesus sees our hearts. Let us hasten and come to him on time.

Jesus and his disciples arrive at the private place they chose for rest, intending to escape the people's disturbance. Surprisingly, they find a large crowd waiting for them. Considering the long distance this crowd walked, which shows their determination and hunger for the Word of God, Jesus has compassion for them, for they are like “sheep without a shepherd.” He begins teaching them (V. 34). Jesus’ heart moves with pity when we hasten to follow him because we feel hungry for the Word of God. He takes care of us by teaching us the Word of God (the first part of the Mass) and feeding us with Body and Blood in the Holy Communion (the second part of the Mass) as he did to the crowd of our Gospel in the story that immediately follows ours, “The Feeding of the Twelve Thousand” (vv. 35-44). The narrator depicts Jesus as a “Shepherd” and the crowd as the “sheep.” In our first reading, God portrayed himself as the good Shepherd who would gather the “remnant” of his flock from all the lands and bring them back to their folds He also promised to raise up shepherds who would shepherd his people (Jr 23:3-4). Jesus is God, the Good Shepherd. He gathers us, who are his flock from all nations, races, and cultures, around the Eucharistic Table. In our second reading, Saint Paul confirms it when he says that Jesus broke down the dividing wall of enmity. In Jesus, we who were far off have become near (Eph 2:13-14). Our Good Shepherd Jesus raised and continues to raise up shepherds, who are you and me, to shepherd our brothers and sisters so that “they need no longer fear or be terrified; none shall be missing.” (See Jr. 23:4).

Let us always feel hungry for Jesus, follow him with enthusiasm and determination, and let ourselves be shepherded by him. Then, in our turn, we will know how to shepherd our brothers and sisters by bringing us close to each other and to God. Amen.

Rev. Leon Ngandu, SVD



17th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 28, 2024

  17 th Sunday in Ordinary Time B – July 28, 2024 2 kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15   Theme: “The Hand of the Lord Feeds ...