17th Sunday OT
Fr. Philip Neri Powell, OP
We need to hear this again – Paul writing to the church in Ephesus: “I, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to live in a manner worthy of the call you have received. . .” Notice what Paul doesn't say. He doesn't say “live in a manner worthy of your pastors or your bishops or your cardinals.” He doesn't say “live in a manner worthy of your political leaders or your favorite movie star or pop-singer.” He says, “. . .live in a manner worthy of the call you have received. . .” What is this call? The call you have received? You – all of us – have received a call to holiness. To be set apart for a sacred task. The chalice we use for Mass cannot be used to serve beer at the parish fish fry. The altar cannot be used as a table for breakfast. These vestments cannot be used as a child's Halloween costume. The chalice, the altar, these vestments have been made holy, set aside for a sacred purpose. And so have you. You have been set aside to accomplish the work of Christ in the world. To multiply his love and mercy among those starving to be brought back to God the Father. Therefore, “. . .live in a manner worthy of the call you have received. . .” Feed the 5,000 right where you are.
The 5,000 gathered around Christ and his disciples are literally hungry. Stomach-growling hungry. He takes “five barley loaves and two fish” and feeds every man, woman, and child there. Make no mistake: this isn't a story about Jesus shaming the crowd into sharing the lunches they were keeping to themselves. This is a miracle. Christ's blessing on the bread and fish – his setting aside of this food for the crowd – gave the bread and fish a sacred purpose, a holy end. We see the Eucharist in this meal. We see the multiplication of disciples in this meal. We see that even the leftovers gathered up and saved. How is this miracle accomplished? John tells us, “Jesus took the loaves [and] gave thanks. . .” He gives thanks. Christ acknowledges the source of the bread and fish. He acknowledges his Father and offers Him gratitude for providing them all with food. That seemingly small gesture, just that tiny prayer of thanksgiving multiplied what little they had into all that they needed and more. When all those people finished eating, what did they do? Did they go home and forget about the miracle they had just witnessed? No! John says, “When the people saw the sign he had done, they said, 'This is truly the Prophet, the one who is to come into the world.'” Jesus had to run for the hills b/c they wanted to make him a king.
Once Jesus got away from them, I imagine most in the crowd went home and told friends and neighbors about the miracle he performed. They bore witness to the signs he showed them. They fed those hungry for news about the coming of the Messiah. They performed their own signs and wonders by sharing the Good News that the Christ had come into the world. They found a way to live in a manner worthy of the call they had received. They fed the 5,000 right where they were. Even if the 5,000 only added up to a dozen or two. So, how do we live in a manner worthy of the call we have received? We don't do it staying quiet. Or by making our faith a purely private matter. Or by pretending that we are living worthily by occasionally showing up for Mass. We are all called to holiness. To be set apart for a sacred purpose, and that sacred purpose is to bear witness to the mercy of God to the world. To be living, breathing icons of Christ to those starving for a relationship with God the Father. When the 5,000 had eaten, Jesus says, “Gather the fragments left over, so that nothing will be wasted.” Leave nothing and no one behind when you bear witness. They too have a call to live worthily.
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