Tuesday, 21 July 2009

17th Sunday in Ordinary Time - Year B

2 Kings 4:42-44; Ephesians 4:1-6; John 6:1-15
God, infinitely perfect and blessed in himself, in a plan of sheer goodness freely created man to make him share in his own blessed life. In the fullness of time, God the Father sent his Son as the Redeemer and Saviour of mankind, fallen into sin, thus calling all into his Church and through the work of the Holy Spirit, making them adopted children and heirs of his eternal happiness. [Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church No 1]

The moment of creation is described for us in the Book of Genesis. It is a revelatory moment in which the veil is taken from our God who stands revealed in his sheer goodness and generosity.

How did he do it? Was it just as Genesis describes in a series of six days; or was it a big bang, containing within it the seed of his entire creative plan which would unfold over billions of years? We don't really know.

What we do know, without any uncertainty or ambiguity, is that our God is awe-inspiring in his perfection, in his goodness, in his mercy, and in his extraordinary readiness to shower his creatures with every good gift.

If we read carefully the quotation above from the Compendium we will see that the sending of the Saviour is placed in the same paragraph and thereby tied to the statement on creation. This is, of course, because the redemption is the completion of creation and we have come to understand that God saved us with the same lavish generosity with which he created us.

Lovers of Sacred Scripture will recognise this generosity of God in every page of the inspired text, beginning with that first command: Let there be light!

And then: Let the earth produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants, and fruit trees bearing fruit with their seed inside, on the earth.

Let the waters teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth within the vault of heaven.

Let the earth produce every kind of living creature: cattle, reptiles, and every kind of wild beast.

The limitless generosity of God bursts forth in his creation of the universe with its billions of stars, its sun and moon and earth with its myriad entrancingly beautiful life-forms - and then - all this, all this, he gives to man, to Adam and Eve, to you and to me.

God's generosity fills the whole world like a fragrant perfume. He pours it out on his creation like the perfume poured out by Mary on the feet of Jesus, perfume which filled the whole house. It embraces us. It rejoices us and is irresistibly attractive to those who have some degree of spiritual sense and are alive to their world. Indeed, the generosity of God seduces us into wanting to give ourselves to him. No wonder the Psalmist cried out: What return can I make to God for all his goodness to me? [116:12]

If this 'galloping goodness' of God, in which he gives far more than is necessary, is seen in creation it is even more clearly seen in Redemption.

Jesus, sent to redeem fallen mankind, had already accomplished this task merely by his Incarnation. Even the pain of the circumcision, just to mention one occasion, would have been sufficient to save us all considering it was suffered by Jesus, the only-begotten Son of the Eternal Father, and therefore had infinite value before the Father.

But his generosity knows no bounds. He wishes to leave us in absolutely no doubt that we are loved absolutely. It is not until he has stretched out his arms on the cross and is about to die that he can say: It is accomplished.

It is as if he were saying 'I came to earth to show mankind how much I love them and how my love always reaches deeper and wider and higher than their sins. In all sorts of ways I have sought to do this. Now I have exhausted all the possibilities. There is nothing more I can do to show them my love. I have achieved my goal. It is accomplished.'

What return can I make to God for all his goodness to me?

But let us return to the readings of today's Mass. There is something of the 'big bang' in today's Gospel with the five loaves and two fish exploding into food for thousands. (The First Reading from 2 Kings has already prepared us for this with a similar feeding of one hundred men with 20 barley loaves and some fresh grain in the ear.)

The people are very conscious of this power in their midst which is able not only to satisfy their hunger but which can do so superabundantly - twelve hampers of scraps were left over from the meal.

The crowd notices the concern Jesus has for them and it draws and attaches them to Jesus whose intent is to teach them that he can feed much more than their bodies.

This bread is multiplied and given to all as a clear expression of that unconditional love with which he would call all into his Church (see quote above from Compendium).

Today we have come to this church to be fed by the same Christ who stood on the mount and fed his people. We have come not to fill our stomachs; we have come for the Bread of Life.

May it be for each one of us healing and strength and may it call forth from our hearts a generosity which will cause us to give ourselves to one another and to all who hunger for love.

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