A Lectio Divina Approach to the Sunday Liturgy

 

BREAKING THE BREAD OF THE WORD (# 36)

18h Sunday in Ordinary Time, Year A – July 31, 2005

 

“They All Ate and Were Satisfied”

 

BIBLE READINGS

Is 55:1-3 // Rom 8:35, 37-39 // Mt 14:13-21

 

 

I. BIBLICO-LITURGICAL REFLECTIONS

 

Today’s Gospel reading takes on a deeper meaning if seen against the backdrop of the first reading (Is 55:1-3), which introduces the theme of the banquet of the Lord. This prophetic passage was probably written in exile in Babylon after the Persian king, Cyrus had signed the edict allowing the captive Jews to return home. The prophet Isaiah was transmitting Yahweh’s comforting words to the exiles who had returned to Judah and found the Jerusalem situation disappointing and overwhelming: “Heed me, and you shall eat well; you shall delight in rich fare. Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life” (Is 55:2b-3). Couched in evocative imagery, the invitation to eat well and to delight in rich fare was meant to assure the broken-hearted people of God’s providential love and the marvelous abundance at the end-time.

 

The biblical scholar, Eugene Maly comments: “To appreciate what he is saying it is important to realize that the prophets were captivated by the faith conviction of the end-time. The end-time was that period when history would come to its climax through the intervention of God and when the conditions of peace and happiness, thought to have prevailed in the beginning, would once again be realized. The prophets looked forward to the end-time with eager longing. They used many images, taken from secular life, to describe this end-time. One was the banquet. It is not surprising that such a common and pleasurable experience should provide the basis for a higher reality. It would be understood by all and evoke in them a keen sense of anticipation. How can the people prepare for this end-time of fulfillment? While it will be an act of God, they can prepare for it by putting themselves right with God: “Come to me heedfully, listen, that you may have life.” In his use of the banquet as a symbol of the end-time, the author is using a long and rich tradition. We need only to recall the Passover meal, recorded in Exodus 12, celebrating God’s liberation of Israel from Egypt. That act of God was seen as anticipating his final climactic act of salvation, and the meal was its sign. The tradition carried over into the New Testament where we find numerous allusions to meals or banquets as signs of a special life with God. The most significant of these, of course, is the Eucharist, the Lord’s Supper, which gives eternal life to those who share it. And in the Gospels, non-Eucharistic meals are often given Eucharistic meaning. This is what has occurred in the story of the feeding by Jesus of the five thousand. Matthew’s account of it is the Gospel reading for this Sunday.” Indeed, the miraculous feeding of the five thousand beside the lake is a symbol of the Eucharist and an anticipation of the messianic banquet.

 

In this Sunday’s Gospel episode there is a vivid scenario of eager crowds who were longing for Jesus’ care and attention. They were more responsive to Jesus than his audience in the synagogue of Nazareth, his hometown, who did not take his preaching to heart. The biblical author, David Garland observes: “We see Jesus, who did not do many miracles in Nazareth because of lack of faith, performing miracles for the crowds because of their faith. For Matthew, faith is confidence in Jesus’ power. The crowds’ faith in Jesus is implied by the fact that they do the same things that others, inspired by faith, have done earlier in the narrative. They bring to him all those who were sick like the men who brought the paralytic to Jesus. They believed that they can be healed by touching the fringe of Jesus’ garment, like the woman with the hemorrhage who touched Jesus’ garment. Their faith in Jesus’ power contrasts with the little faith of the disciples, who appear to lack the same confidence.”

 

In the miraculous event of the multiplication of the five loaves and two fish, Jesus was forming his disciples’ faith in preparation for their role as pastors and givers of nourishment to the ecclesial community. The authors of the Days of the Lord, vol. 4, remark: “A pitiful amount – five loaves and two fish – they are in no better position than the people themselves. But by having them recognize their radical helplessness – for they know well that they themselves cannot give food to the crowds – does not Jesus want to lead his disciples – those of yesterday and those of today – to turn to him, understanding that he is able to feed many peoples and that moved with pity he does it? It is as though he were saying: You have only five loaves and two fish. This is nothing indeed to feed the crowd that is following me. But it is much more than needed if, in faith, you turn to me. For, with me, you will see the bread multiply in your hands.”

 

In the superabundance of the multiplied loaves and the twelve baskets filled with leftovers is a sign of the copious spiritual nourishment and the unfailing Eucharistic food that Jesus offers to hungry crowds in the course of centuries. David Garland underlines the messianic and universal dimension of this miraculous sign: “The abundance may signify the presence of the messianic age and salvation … The feeding of five thousand with excess collected in twelve baskets indicates the abundant supply of all Israel. The Eucharist, however, will offer bread for all humankind.”

 

 

PERSONAL REFLECTION

by Gerry and May Valle

(Members: ASSOCIATION OF PAULINE COOPERATORS – Friends of the Divine Master, Antipolo Unit, Philippines)

 

      How many times have we forgotten our brothers and sisters? How many times have we used others for our own satisfaction? Have we ever thought of giving up something for others?

 

In this Gospel, Jesus showed us a good example of how important his people are to him. Even in the midst of sorrow at the death of John, he set aside his feelings when he saw the large crowd who followed him on foot, hoping to be with him and have him heal their sick. And Jesus showed them compassion, not only by healing their sick but also by feeding the hungry crowd. His disciples fear that they did not have enough food for all. For thousands of people, they have only five loaves of bread and two fish. He showed us that, even though we have little, it would be enough if we have faith.

 

People sometimes feel incomplete or dissatisfied if they only have or receive little. Sometimes people feel that only having so much of something, of such material things will make them happy. Have we realized that if we treasure the small things we have and put them together, it is more than we thought we had? God is so gracious that he balances the material things we have with his love. If we would only let him lead our life, we would have peace in our hearts and mind for we would feel complete, satisfied and happy.

 

I once read, there was a man who worked in a non-government organization which focuses on fighting poverty. His priest-boss once looked at the latest statistics on the number of poor people and said, “Things haven’t improved after all these years.” The man felt so bad that after all they had done nothing happened. But once he chanced upon a poster that gave him a bit of hope. It read: “My child, you are concerned about the hungry in the world, millions who are starving, and you ask, What can I do? FEED ONE … Remember this my child: two thousand years ago the world was filled with those in need, just as it is today, and when the helpless and the hopeless called out to me for mercy, I sent a savior … HOPE BEGAN WITH ONLY ONE.”

 

 

II. POINTS FOR THE EXAMINATION OF THE HEART

A.     Do we imitate Jesus’ compassionate stance with regards to the crowds who have turned to him for help and healing? What is our personal response to the hungers and yearnings of today’s world?

B.     Do we see the miraculous possibility of the “five loaves and two fish” that are available to us in our ministry to the poor? Do we trust that Jesus will multiply our resources? Do we allow ourselves to be satisfied by the superabundant riches of God?

C.     Do we believe that the Eucharist is Christ nourishing his people with his own body and blood … that it is the living bread for all mankind? Do we look forward to the future messianic banquet in heaven?

 

III. PRAYING WITH THE WORD

(Cf. Commission Francophone Cistercienne, Tropaires des dimanches, 49)

 

Leader: Toward whom, Lord, should we walk if not toward you?

You alone speak of life and give it to us.

Make us worthy of the table where your Father calls us today.

 

Assembly: See our hunger, Savior of the world!

Share with us your word and your bread.

 

Leader: I am the bread of life,

those who come to me will never hunger,

those who believe in me will never thirst.

Here is the word of my Father:

those who believe in the Son have eternal life.

Those who eat my flesh and drink my blood have eternal life

and I will raise them on the last day.

 

Assembly: See our hunger, Savior of the world!

Share with us your word and your bread.

 

 

IV. INTERIORIZATION OF THE WORD

 

            The following is the bread of the living Word that will nourish us throughout the week. Please memorize it.

            “They all ate and were satisfied, and they picked up the fragments left over – twelve wicker baskets full.” (Mt 14:20)

 

 

V. TOWARDS LIFE TRANSFORMATION

 

A.     ACTION PLAN: Pray for the various hungers and human needs in today’s world. Seek to alleviate the hunger of a needy brother and sister in any way. Contribute to the local Church’s effort to provide bread for the poor in your commuity.

 

B.     ACTION PLAN: That we may appreciate and experience more deeply the gift of the Eucharistic bread that Christ offers us for the life of the world, and in view of a more meaningful Year of the Eucharist, make an effort to spend an hour in Eucharistic Adoration. Visit the PDDM WEB site (www.pddm.us) for the EUCHARISTIC ADORATION THROUGH THE LITURGICAL YEAR (# 36): A Weekly Pastoral Tool for the Year of the Eucharist.

 

 

 

Prepared by Sr. Mary Margaret Tapang  PDDM

 

 

 

PIAE DISCIPULAE DIVINI MAGISTRI

SISTER DISCIPLES OF THE DIVINE MASTER

60 Sunset Ave., Staten Island, NY 10314

Tel. (718) 494-8597 // (718) 761-2323

Website: WWW.PDDM.US

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