On the Sundays throughout this year B in our liturgical cycle, we have been hearing the Gospel according to St. Mark. Today, and for the next four Sundays, however, we will hear sections from the sixth chapter of John’s Gospel drawing us into the image of Jesus as the Bread of Life. In the first three Sundays of this Bread of Life Discourse of St. John, we see how God sent Bread (Jesus) from heaven. We are to believe and that is how we are led to eternal life. The Old Testament Readings of these three Sundays are miracle stories of being fed from heaven, and the Responsorial Psalms call us to bless the Lord for the wonderful ways in which we are fed by God.
Today, this Seventeenth Sunday of Ordinary Time, both the Old Testament reading from the second Book of Kings and the Gospel of John, are about a multiplication of loaves to feed the people—with plenty left over! The Responsorial Psalm today is: “The hand of Lord feeds us; He answers all our needs.” Listen closely to the verses of this Psalm about God’s great generosity!
In the Gospel today we hear the familiar story of the multiplication of the loaves and fishes and how all who come to Jesus are fed. This miracle took place during the Passover (the liberation of the Jews from Egypt—the Exodus), and the Feast of the Unleavened Bread—all of which adds another element of mystery in the miracle story of the sharing of the bread with Jesus. When we are present and join in the Eucharist at Mass we share the many mysteries of this history and in the Paschal mystery itself.
The loaves and fish were multiplied by the incredible miracle of the sharing of the people—overcoming our natural human, fearful and selfish tendencies—all present there acted in love. Many times in our seasons and cycles I have witnessed this love of Community working together here at St. Aidan—I see the multiplication of talent, generosity and love! (Don’t forget to pray on joining a Ministry at St. Aidan—many hands—and voices—are needed!)
St. Paul reminds us today to “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another through love…” We are to be fed the Bread of Life and then transformed in our joining together at the table of the Eucharist. This is food for our journey in life. This is the nourishment for endurance and for change in order to be what we profess to be: the disciples and believers in Christ. Each Sunday, we gather and experience a foretaste of the heavenly banquet where all are filled. We know that those who hunger in faith will be satisfied. Through us, Jesus’ feeding work continues, whether at Mass, in our Church, in our homes, families and Community, and in the larger world. We are all called, as baptized Christians, to feed everyone.
Each Sunday We Remember how he loved us to His death, and we know Him In The Breaking of the Bread. We Are Called and we sing the Song of the Body of Christ together. We Come in Joy to Meet the Lord, and We Gather Together at the Table of Plenty to Taste and See of His goodness. We Come and Eat This Bread, knowing, Lord, that You Satisfy the Hungry Heart. So Take and Eat, and Look Beyond the obvious. Behold the Lamb of God who Now in This Banquet gives us Life-Giving Bread, Saving Cup. Make of Your Hands a Throne to Receive the Living God. He makes of us One Bread, One Body. He is The Bread of Life, Bread for the World and Our Blessing Cup.
Just a Note: Here is a song by Casting Crowns and another by a group called Brook Hills Music about us as the body of Christ—“food for thought” in that we must be transformed by the Body of Christ to be the body of Christ in this world...
As a society we are not good at “rest.” Speaking in general terms, our culture does not promote sitting still—and that can actually have very wide-reaching consequences for our mental and spiritual health, our well-being, our productivity and in other areas of our lives. By keeping ourselves busy at all times, we may be losing our ability to sit still because our brains are actually being rewired and addicted to constant activity, distraction and “noise.”
Webster’s Dictionary describes rest as “freedom from activity or labor, peace of mind or spirit, or a state of motionlessness or inactivity.” Some synonyms for rest are: repose, relax, stop, stay, calm, pause, intermission to name a few. Contemplating these definitions and synonyms we see that as a culture we are not very productive at un-productivity…
Last Sunday Jesus sent the Twelve on a mission, and this Sixteenth Sunday of Ordinary Time we see them return with a report on their achievement and their preaching. The Gospel of St. Mark today tells us how Jesus notices that His people are tired; and He leads them to a place where they might rest. He knows they need food, relaxation and contemplative prayer. When a crowd shows up needing attention, Jesus teaches them and lets the Apostles rest. He knows that even His Father the Creator rested after six days of hard work…
All of us have very busy lives: we are all loaded with responsibilities at home and at work, with friends and family. Our lifestyle does not lend itself to resting; we feel guilty and “shiftless” when we do. (I just read an article where doctors are ordering walks in the woods for their stressed out patients!) We all live as “workaholics”—and just the fact that we have that word in our vocabulary shows that there is a need for its’ use. The clock—and time— rules our lives. I don’t know about you—but yesterday I was shocked to realize that we are more than half-way through July!
All of us have the sense of time running out, or not having enough time to do all that we want or need to do. Today’s Gospel shows us though that we should try and have the habit of encouraging rest for ourselves and each other. How? By making it possible through helping out where needed; by lightening existing burdens through sharing the load at church, at work and at home; by giving permission to ourselves, to those of family, friends and in this Community to do as Jesus enabled His disciples to do: to ‘take a break with God.’ It doesn’t even have to be very long—just a few hours of reprieve for rest, renewal and relaxation. We need time to reflect, refocus and recharge our energies for what is most important—a life in the Spirit. Think how much better our lives would be with us all looking out for each other’s needs—in helping others, yet knowing others are looking out for you too. This is truly Community and Communion!
Like the Gospel story today of the crowd who shows up seeking assurance from Jesus, we are a flock in distress at times (just watch the news), and we are under stress. We all need a place of rest in order to meet with our Shepherd, and to remember that we are not—we are never—abandoned. The Responsorial Psalm today—the Twenty-third Psalm—gives us the direction to this place of rest: “The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. In verdant pastures he gives me repose; beside restful waters he leads me; he refreshes my soul.” St. Aidan is a great place to be refreshed, revitalized and renewed in the Lord—and in all things: in work, in mission, in people and in play. We are so glad you are back! What a great reason to.
Just a Note: We are all busy as a staff planning the new season for all of our activities and groups starting in September—and we are all looking for volunteers to enable the work of mission here at St. Aidan. I am looking for interested singers for my ensembles (both the young and the youthful), for instrumentalists (particularly another guitarist or two and a bassist). Please come and see me—then rest up before the busy season begins…
Another Note: Here are some other ideas for your own resting: 1) Make time for doing nothing and do it with a purpose. 2) Resist the culture of busyness—if you are resting and doing nothing—own it. 3) Reorganize your environment for rest—devices out of reach. 4) Manage your expectations—get rid of the pressure of busy. 5) Think outside the (your personal) box—go to a place of rest like a spa or a park, change your location for intentional rest. I hope this helps!
Here are some songs about resting in the Lord.
In the Old Testament Reading this Fifteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time, we hear about the downside of being a prophet (like Elijah from last week). Today we hear the Prophet Amos say, “The Lord took me…and said to me, ‘Go and prophesy’…” Because of his calling Amos is sent away by the priest Amaziah. In the Gospel Jesus sends out his disciples with explicit instructions to take with them only the bare minimum. (That would be scary!) The disciples are not prophets, but they have been commissioned to preach repentance, to exorcise demons and to heal the sick.
We all inherit this mission⎯this call⎯by our Baptism and belief. Although in our many differing ministries and walks of life we may eat and sleep where we like, it can be intimidating to confront the ‘demons’ we must face, too. Think about it: demons of fear, demons of insecurity or inadequacy, demons of jealousy and pride. In the face of all kinds of ‘demons’ how difficult it is at times to know what to say to grieving families; or to be patient and compassionate with the ill, the ignorant or the annoying. Every day we face moments as Christian missionaries that challenge us to respond as Christ would respond.
Somewhere through the centuries, people began to think we can be Christians in the same way most people are Democrats and Republicans, Rotarians and Lions Club members. We show up for meetings, pay our dues, and wear the insignia. For the most part, however, it is acceptable to be “just like everybody else.” We're devout Christians on Sunday mornings, but then we are unkind and thoughtless, selfish for our own needs; we curse or flirt or cheat or tell racist or ethnic jokes the other six and a half days of the week. You are not a car because you happen to be standing in a garage…
We have institutionalized our Christian faith to the point that membership has come to count for conversion! It isn't just Vito Corleone of “Godfather” fame who could live as a criminal so long as he attended Mass and gave gifts to his church. If our faith is more than self-delusion, it must inform our lives, transform our lives in all the routine and ordinary events of life, every day.
St. Paul tells us today that we were chosen for this; “we were destined for adoption…(by) Christ; destined in accord with the purpose of the One who accomplishes all things…In accord with the riches of his grace which he has lavished upon us.” We have all been given gifts for the building of the kingdom of God: all of us were chosen for this purpose.
In the Music Ministry (as in many Ministries) we do face our own particular demons in our mission: how intimidating it can be sometimes to lead the psalm from the ambo, or to lead the Assembly in song, or in a reflection of the Word (an anthem) and to realize that what transpires musically may affect the Community’s experience of the Divine this day. We face these ‘demons’ (or challenges, or opportunities) along with those of stubborn assemblies who don’t sing along (not St. Aidan’s), or parishioners who don’t understand the music ministry (or its’ requirements).
I always say if we are not moving forward we aren’t staying still, so which direction are we going? Because nothing stays the same! There is always work to do to better sharpen the gifts given—looking for never ending improvements!—in order to be more effective ministers and musicians: Disciples of Christ sent by Him. Any ministry implies responsibility—and we are all sent for something… So shake the dust off your feet and get going…
Just a Note: A song about our value and how we are called and chosen.
As we celebrate our nation’s independence this July 4th, we find a reminder of what noble expectations we are to expect of ourselves as citizens of these United States of America by reflecting upon our flag. As a symbol, our flag is rich in its power to convey meaning, evoke memory and stir up feelings; it appeals to the whole person: intellect, heart, memory, conscious and subconscious feelings. The evocative power of our flag lies in its deliberate design, bearing as it does a likeness to the country it represents…to which we are called to be.
Our flag point to virtues we should all continually strive to live; it serves as a symbol of the noble expectations to which we are called as citizens of this unique and blessed nation. Let us not be dismissive of or take for granted our independence. It has been hard-fought for and it can be lost if rather than striving for virtue we plunge headlong into vice.
Father of all nations and ages, we recall the day when our country claimed its place among the family of nations; for what has been achieved we give you thanks, for what work still remains we ask for your help, and as you have called us from many peoples to be one nation, grant that, under your providence, our country may share your blessings with all the peoples of the earth. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, God, for ever and ever. Amen.
David J. Conrad
David J. Conrad, M.A. Theology. Our Director of Faith Formation.