XVIII Sunday in Ordinary Time
Year A - Sunday 31.07.2011
Fr. Romeo Ballan
What God wants is clear: that all may have life to the full! (Jn 10:10). Today’s readings overflow with this abundance, this freely-given gift. Such is the salvation our God offers us so generously – and to everyone! The prophet (1st reading) invites all to drink water, wine and milk in plenty, “without money and without cost” (v.1); he promises good things to eat and succulent wines. The responsorial psalm insists on this tenderness and goodness of the Lord, who is patient and merciful with all, satisfies the hunger of every living creature, and is close to those who search for him with a sincere heart. The apostle Paul (2nd reading) enthusiastically insists that nothing can separate us from the love of Christ, because “we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (v.37). A tangible sign of this abundance is the multiplication of the loaves (Gospel), thanks to which many eat their full of bread and fish, and twelve basketsful of scraps are collected. The difficult situation at the beginning (a solitary place, a lack of food, so many people...) is overturned by Jesus’ compassion for the multitude. He even sets aside the time of mourning for the death of his friend and cousin John the Baptist (v. 13-14) so as to exercise his miraculous power and inspire the sharing that leads to nourishment for all, in superabundance.
To solve the problem of hungry people, the disciples think of two options: send them away or buy... Jesus is opposed to these proposals. “Jesus does not send people away; he never sent anyone away. The disciples speak of buying, Jesus speaks of giving. Opens a new way of being: to give without counting, to give without asking, generously, freely, first. When my bread becomes our bread, the gift is the seed of a miracle” (Hermes Ronchi). Jesus involves the disciples and engages them in the solution of the problem: “You give them something to eat” (v. 16). The miracle begins with the little that the disciples offer: five loaves and two fish, which in the hands of Jesus become many, or rather an overabundance. The buying is replaced with the sharing. The system of buying creates lucky people and unlucky people: there are those who can afford and those who cannot afford. According to the Gospel, the watchword is: sharing!
Jesus wants his apostles to become aware of the situation, and to think up creative and audacious solutions, without delay! Only by way of sharing can huge problems like hunger in the world and endemic diseases be overcome... When there is no sharing then the logic of accumulation takes the upper hand, so that even the greatest multiplication of goods would always end up in the hands of a few. Without sharing selfishness reigns. The Popes have often appealed for solidarity and sharing, such as on the occasion of the summit conferences at the WHO or of the G8 or other occasions, raising their voice against the scandal of hunger, on behalf of the poor of the earth, especially in Africa, a continent often neglected and especially needful of true development. (*)
Amidst the sands of Villa El Salvador on the southern outskirts of Lima (Peru), on the morning of February 5, 1985, Blessed John Paul II met with a million poor people. During the liturgy of the Word, the Gospel was the multiplication of the loaves, and it was with this Gospel that the Pope launched his missionary message. At the end of the celebration, visibly moved, he spoke from the heart with these few, short words: “Hambre de Dios, SÍ. Hambre de pan, NO” (Hunger for God, Yes. Hunger for bread, No.). This call immediately went round the world and has been carved on the monument which recalls the Pope’s visit to that place. They are words which explain and sustain missionary work: a strong commitment to increase the hunger for God and abolish the hunger for bread.
The multiplication of the loaves has always been understood as referring to the Eucharist, understood above all as the banquet of the Bread of life which is broken and multiplied for all. Mission, too, is bread broken for the life of the world. In this way, the Eucharist, mission and sharing are a trio that must always go together. The Eucharist is the banquet of the peoples: mission calls all peoples to this banquet of the Life of grace; and it urges them to share as brothers and sisters in solidarity, so that there may be bread on the table for all. We Christians who eat the bread of the Word and of the Eucharist, we who are often satisfied with the bread on the table, are strongly questioned about our commitment to the mission and the development of the poor. Let us pray “so that the bread multiplied by your providence may be broken in love” and that we may be open “to dialogue and service to all people” (Opening Prayer). So that all may have Life to the full (Jn 10:10).
The Pope speaks
(*) “Hunger still reaps enormous numbers of victims among those who, like Lazarus, are not permitted to take their place at the rich man’s table. Feed the hungry (cf Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church… The elimination of world hunger has also, in the global era, become a requirement for safeguarding the peace and stability of the planet”.
Encyclical Caritas in Veritate, 29.06.2009, n. 27
In the missionaries’ footsteps
-31/7: St. Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), Spanish priest, founder of the Society of Jesus. His followers continue to work for the missions and in many different ecclesial and cultural services throughout the world.
-31/7: St. Justin De Jacobis (1800-1860), Vincentian, missionary and bishop in Ethiopia, he worked for ecumenical relations; Ethiopian Catholics consider him the “angel and father of the Church in Ethiopia”.
- 31/7: Remembrance of Pope Paul VI’s journey to Uganda (1969) and the creation of SECAM (the Symposium of the Episcopal Conferences of Africa and Madagascar).
- 31/7: Remembrance of Bartolomé de las Casas (1474-1566), Spanish Dominican, missionary in the New World and bishop in Mexico, defender of the rights of the Indians and their protector.
- 1/8: St. Alphonsus Maria de’ Liguori (1696-1787), lawyer and moral theologian, subsequently bishop, founder of the Redemptorists, promoter of popular missions. He is a doctor of the Church.
- 1/8: Remembrance of Mgr. Pierre Claverie, Dominican, bishop of Oran (Algiers), killed by Islamist terrorists (+1966) together with his driver.
- 2/8: Bl. Zefirino Giménez Malla (1860-1936), Spanish layman of gypsy origin, promoter of good relations among his people and the neighbours, martyred in the persecution during the Spaniard civil war. He is the first gypsy to be beatified.
- 2/8: Remembrance of don Nicola Mazza (1790-1865), a priest from Verona, where he founded an Institute for the education of virtuous, intelligent and poor boys, among whom was St. Daniel Comboni, the apostle of Africa.
- 4/8: St. John Mary Vianney (1786-1859), French priest, for forty years the “parish priest of Ars”, evangelizer, confessor and catechist, promoter of popular missions; he is the model and patron of the diocesan clergy.
- 6/8: Feast of the Transfiguration of the Lord: “Your face, O Lord, shines before all the peoples”. – Remembrance of the Servant of God, Pope Paul VI (1897-1978), who died at sunset on this day.
- 6/8: Remembrance of card. Guglielmo Massaja (1809-1889), Capuchin Italian missionary, a pioneer in the evangelisation of the Galla, on the Ethiopian highland.
- 6/8 and 9/8, 1945: Anniversaries, respectively, of the two terrible explosions of the atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki (Japan) by the USA army.
Compiled by Fr. Romeo Ballan, MCCJ - Comboni Missionaries (Verona)
Translated by Fr. David Glenday MCCJ
Website: www.euntes.net “The Word for Mission”
During summer time we shall discontinue this service until middle September.