Deacon’s Homily — 17th Sunday in Ordinary Time

Preached by Deacon Gary Newton

Today, for the first time, we celebrate World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly. This is newly instituted by Pope Francis to be celebrated every year on the fourth Sunday in July. I have been blessed with 3 grandchildren; Sophia who is 9, Lucas who is 5, and Elizabeth who recently turned 1. For all the elderly that are grandparents as well as those that are not, we know how blessed we are to have been given this gift of a long life to share our life with our loved ones. This truly is a gift from God.

Unfortunately there is a societal trend that does not recognize this God given gift of the Elderly. They view the elderly as a burden with a misguided perception that they provide no value to others as they age. Pope Francis was certainly guided by the Holy Spirit to bring focus and attention to grandparents and the elderly to renew in all, the importance and gifts shared by a long life.

The real goldmine of the elderly is their life experiences. Life’s problems can sometimes seem unsurmountable like in the readings today where it seems impossible to feed all those people with a small amount of food. We can try to figure things out on our own but we can also reach out to others that have more experience. Many times the wisdom of the elderly can shed light on many of life’s challenges.

In today’s First reading Elisha tells his servant to feed a hundred people with the twenty barley loaves they had. Even though the servant did not see how that could be possible, Elisha assured him that there would be leftovers. This is very similar to the Gospel today. It is the very familiar parable about the five loaves and two fish being used to feed five thousand men but like Elisha’s servant, Jesus’ disciples did not understand how this could be done. But as we know twelve wicker baskets were filled with leftovers to be shared at another meal.

How many of us get hungry? The answer would be all of us get hungry at some point. But what do you hunger for? Food may be the first thing that comes to mind. Maybe some other desires would be that we hunger for love, compassion, and acceptance. Maybe you want answers, answers to what may seem to be questions that are impossible to answer, like the age old question of Why? Why did this or that have to happen?

There is no satisfying answer to why we sometimes have to face things in our lives that make no logical sense or seems to have no purpose. What we have been consistently hearing in the Gospels recently is that faith is the catalyst to healing. We see again in today’s First Reading and the Gospel, impossible things can be made possible through faith. How can you feed a hundred or thousands of people with a small amount of food? You can’t. Not on your own, but through the grace of God all things are possible.

There is a very clear message in the readings today that our health and wellbeing depends on God, and He will provide for us even when things look impossible. These are parables of faith in the face of the impossible.

Today’s readings talk directly about the miracle of the multiplication of loaves and fish. But most people will not experience that type of miracle. Satisfying physical hunger or physically healing someone was not the main purpose of Jesus’ mission. He came to save our souls. To help us he gave us a much more powerful miracle that we can experience each and every day. This is the miracle of the Eucharist. Through the breaking of a small piece of bread, the multitudes are fed. We are fed with the Body of Christ which feeds the essence of our life, our soul.

A mother took her five year old son with her to shop at a small town discount store. Her basket was full with a number of items. As she was passing the aisle with various penny candy, the owner picked up a jar of candy and said to her son, “Here, take some candy” The boy was quiet and declined to take the candy. “Go ahead!” said the owner again and again, “Take some!” The boy refused. Finally, the owner put his own hand into the jar and gave the boy a handful of candy. Outside the store, the boy’s mother asked him, “Son, normally you grab everything that’s given to you. Why didn’t you take the candy yourself?” The boy said, “Mommy, my hand is small. I knew that if the store owner gave it to me with his own hands, I’d get more Candy!”

We are like the child and God like the store owner. We have our hands extended wanting them filled with something to satisfy our hunger. We are handed the source of all nourishment, the Body of Christ. What else could we possibly want or need?

We are fed to “have our fill”, like the parable of the loaves and fish, and have more left over than we could possibly consume ourselves. This abundance must be shared, that is what is meant by taking what was gathered in the twelve wicker baskets and bringing them out to the world so all are fed and that nothing goes to waste. We take from the abundance God gives us and share with those in need. It may be food but it goes far beyond that, it is the gift of faith that must be shared.

Every day God wants us to reach out beyond our perceived human ability and build up His kingdom here in our midst. You might be asking, how can we do this? How can we find the strength to trust and act on faith? We are doing it right now. We are doing it by being part of this community gathered for the Eucharist. We are part of a powerful transformation happening in our midst as we are being transformed into the Body of Christ that is this Eucharistic moment.

Experience the miracle that will take place in a moment. Believe and have faith in this miracle and be filled with the physical and spiritual presence of Jesus Christ giving life to your soul so abundantly that you are overflowing with his love.

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