17th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Readings: 2 Kgs 4:42-44; Ps 145:10-11, 15-16, 17-18; Eph 4:1-6; Jn 6:1-15
The Gospel reading today is my favorite Gospel scene. In fact, Matthew’s version of the same story was the Gospel reading I chose for our diaconal and presbyteral ordinations, and for my Misa de Gracia as well. I see here my vision of ministry. I see here the God who asks me to be His collaborator. I see here the Eucharist for which I have been ordained to celebrate, preside and serve.
A little side note: John does not have a detailed Eucharistic account at the Last Supper. This scene in John’s Gospel is his Eucharistic account. “Then Jesus took the loaves, gave thanks, and distributed them to those who were reclining…”
What then is the message of the Gospel reading this Sunday?
1. God provides for our needs. He takes care of His people.
Once again, the Gospel presents another image of God: a God who knows our concerns and takes care of us. Both the First Reading and the Gospel narrate miracles of the feeding of a multitude.
Every Sunday, or maybe even everyday, we pray the words: “Give us this day our daily bread...” How many times have we bothered to pause and consider how God has been fulfilling our prayers?
The Nursing Licensure Exam results were released just yesterday. I’m very sure those who passed, or who have family members and friends who passed, are rejoicing now, and hopefully thanking God for fulfilling their prayers. According to the news, the passing rate was 41.87%. What about the more than half of examinees who didn’t pass? A wise priest once said during a Mass at a university after a major exam: “If you fail an exam, maybe it means God wants to show His love for you in another way.”
2. Jesus defines what ministry means: a calling for His disciples to share in His mission.
He asked Philip to look for food for the people. Andrew brought to Him a boy with five loaves and two fish. After praying, he asked his disciples to distribute the food to the people. After the people had their fill, He asked them again to collect the leftovers. God provides for the needs of his people. And he asks his disciples to become the instruments through which His providence and care will be felt by the people.
There are also lessons here on how to do ministry, on how to collaborate with Jesus:
a. Seek to see with the eyes of Christ.
In last Sunday’s Gospel reading, we listened to how Jesus saw the crowd and his heart was moved with compassion (Mt 6,34). When Jesus asked Philip to look for food, the good disciple didn’t immediately grasped what was coming so he reasoned with human common sense, but on hindsight he realized Jesus was teaching him a lesson: deign to see as He sees.
I couldn't help but point out what I observe among those who pray for former President Cory Aquino, among those who attend the healing Masses for her intention. While they pray fervently for Cory's good health, they also pray for God's will to be done. This is also the message that comes from Cory's family and Cory herself. At this period of suffering and anxiety for Cory, and her family and friends, even as they pray for her recovery, they also pray to see as God sees, and so be able to accept whatever His will may be.
b. Be generous in sharing your little gifts.
And see how God will use them to reach out to and build up people. Jesus’ miracle happened when a young boy generously offered his baon of five loaves and two fish.
What are your talents? What are your gifts? What are the things that you are good at? Offer them to the Lord by sharing them to others. You just don’t know how your offering might turn out, what mighty deeds or miracle it will help bring forth.
c. Follow Christ’s instructions.
Jesus gave his disciples specific instructions to follow, which they did and so helped effect the miracle of the feeding the multitude. We can discern Christ’s instruction, Christ’s will for us, if we stay in constant contact with him through prayer, the reading of Scriptures and the teachings of the Church.
Discerning God’s will in prayer, Scripture and the teachings of the Church, is our sure guide that we won’t get lost in doing ministry and seeking the good of others.
What makes this Gospel story special to me? During my Long Retreat (the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises), my contemplation on this particular story led me to make my election, my most conscious choice of offering myself to God as an unworthy candidate for ordination. All my doubts and fears were cast away, and I was ready to embrace as much as I can – with the help of His grace – the entirety of His calling to me: to share in the mission of Jesus in bringing about His Kingdom on earth.
Until now, I could resonate with Philip, learning more lessons from Christ in doing ministry. I could see myself in Andrew, helping bring more people to Christ. I feel what the young boy may have felt, discovering the joy of sharing to others whatever humble gifts I have.
God provides. We are His ministers.