Seventeenth Sunday Ordinary Time 2012 Loaves and Fishes

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This Sunday's gospel relates the parable of the feeding of the five thousand with five loaves and two fishes. 

John's gospel tells of feeding with bread but is also a microcosm for Jesus Himself who will become for us the bread of eternal life.

Scripture readings for the Mass are here

My post last year on this Gospel coincided with a famine in the Horn of Africa.See here.

Related post here.

Apart from bread filling the physical need of hunger we need to be fed spiritually to fill the empty space in our lives. We need to be fed hope and love !

I read this week how Tesco supermarkets are revamping their 900 bakeries to include 30 more varieties of artisan bread, an array of amazing varieties of fresh bread.

 We have become inured to the mechanically aerated, non-nutritional, sanitized loaves on offer.

Not only have we lost respect for the way our food is produced, we have become remote and indifferent to the work of human hands when it is the result of exploitation for cheap profits.

Not only are we are estranged from the knowledge of how our food is made from seed and carried from soil to table but we are increasingly indifferent to  the work and social justice issues involved in its production. 

Read here how something practical can be done with our food surpluses and waste.
"Feeding the 5000" a partnership between farmers and a group of environmental charities campaign for better use of surplus food - FareShare, FoodCycle, Love Food Hate Waste and Friends of the Earth and most parishes I know locally, have food banks so even small offerings can make a huge difference to people for whom life has taken a bad turn.

Spiritually too we seem to be ever more estranged from ourselves and our communities.

This powerful poem by David Scott is so much more than a half baked lament for the old days.

 It is a metaphor for the empty spaces in our lives too and the spiritual hunger that is left unresolved by the faddish pretentious diets of pap and drivel we feed on.

A Long Way From Bread

We have come so far from bread.
Rarely do we hear the clatter of the mill wheel;
see the flour in every cranny,
the shaking down of the sack, the chalk on the door,
the rats, the race, the pool,
baking day, and the old loaves:
cob, cottage, plaited, brick.

We have come so far from bread.
Once the crock said ‘BREAD’
and the bread was what was there,
and the family’s arm went deeper down each day
to find it, and the crust was favoured.

We have come so far from Bread.
terrifying is the breach between wheat and table,
wheat and bread, bread and what goes for bread.
Loaves now come in regiments, so that loaf
is not the word. Hlaf
is one of the oldest words we have.

I go on about bread
because it was to bread
that Jesus trusted
the meaning he had of himself.
It was an honour for the bread
to be the knot in the Lord’s handkerchief
reminding him about himself. So,
O bread, breakable;
O bread, given;
O bread, a blessing;
count yourself lucky bread.

Not that I am against wafers,
especially the ones produced under steam
from some hidden nunnery
with our lord crucified into them.

They are at least unleavened, and fit the hand,
without remainder, but it is still
a long way from bread.
better for each household to have its own bread,
daily, enough and to spare,
dough the size of a rolled towel,
for feeding angels unawares.

Then if the bread is holy,
All that has to do with bread is holy;
Board, knife, cupboard,
So that the gap between all things is closed
In our attention to the bread of the day.’

I know that
“man cannot live on bread alone.”
I say, let us get the bread right.

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A commentary by David Scott on the Gospel of the feeding of the five thousand, titled "Bread Left Over" is here.

Below a poem from Iona  Wild Goose Publications- Author Unknown.

When you touch Bread
Let it not lie
Uncared for … unwanted
So often
Bread is taken for granted
There is so much beauty
In Bread
Beauty of sun and soil
Beauty of patient toil
Winds and rain have caressed it
Christ so often blessed it
Be gentle when you touch Bread

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Paul's second reading urges us to live in a way that is worthy of our calling and this fine poem by Nissim Ezekiel below sums up for me the wonderful gift of life we are freely given and in the Eucharist, the ongoing call to receive a daily renewal to keep trust in God and to keep trying even when our efforts seem to be in vain.

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Just when you give up
the whole process
begins again

and you are as pure as if you had confessed
and received absolution

You have done nothing 
to deserve it;
you have merely slept
and got up again 

feeling fine

because the morning is fine

sufficient reason
for faith in a process
that can perform such miracles

without assistance from you
Imgaine what it would do 
with a little assistance from you.

Great reflection here called God Provides where the author Sister Mary McGlone says
"The key is that when we give out of our scarcity, we will find that there is enough." 

So, some more reflections on living in ways worthy of our calling. 

In his book "Our One Great Act of Fidelity, Waiting for Christ in The Eucharist , Ron Rolheiser relates this story about St Augustine. When he was giving the Eucharist, instead of saying the body of Christ," he would say "Receive what you are." 

Rolheiser says : what is supposed to happen at the Eucharist is that we, the congregation, by sacrificing the things that divide us, should become the body and blood of Christ. More so than the bread and wine, we the people are meant to be changed, to be transubstantiated.

The Eucharist as sacrifice asks us to become the bread of brokenness and the chalice of vulnerability."

 So how can we live this out in our daily lives ? From Rolheiser again :

 " family and community aren't boring: they're terrifying. They're too full of searing revelations, there we have no place to hide. In family life, our selfishness and our immaturities are reflected back to us through eyes that are steady and unblinking. But Rolhesier also says that staying within them is often the hell that leads to heaven. 

The Eucharist as a spirituality invite us into community and family. To live out the eucharist in daily life is to share our everyday lives with each other.
Theologians tell us that God is as much a verb as a noun. God is a trinity of persons: Father , Son and Holy Spirit. for Christians this is more than a simple dogma that we are asked to accept, even if we don't understand it.

It is something that invites us to a whole way of life : God is a family, a community of persons sharing life together in such a way that a spirit an energy of gratitude and joy flows out of that shared life.

We are asked to do the same-to share our lives with one another in such a way that joy and gratitude flow out as an energy that nurtures others. Life in the spirit is quite simply life shared with others. ...... He goes on:....

"Jean Paul Sartre once suggested that community is hell. On a given day, the tensions inherent within community life can certainly make that seem true. However in our better moments, we all know that the reverse is the truth: alienation and aloneness are hell: shared life is heaven.

The Eucharist is an invitation to us not just to come together in church to celebrate a sacred ritual that Jesus left us. The Eucharist invites us to commit ourselves, inside our families and communities, to share all aspects of our lives with others."

All true, but sometimes the demands are such that we do have to take time out and withdraw to a mountain alone !!

                                            Source Church of the Multiplication ,Tabgha, Israel 
                       possible site where the miracle of the feeding of the multitudes took place

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                                                            Stone mosaic under altar at Tabgha

We Come To Your Feast

We sang this beautiful hymn (also one of my favourites), by Michael Joncas at the Clear Voices Festival at Buckfast earlier this month.

Click here to listen: Scroll down page and click on the arrow on the second track on the list - Lyrics are below.

 We Come to Your Feast

We place upon Your table a gleaming cloth of white
The weaving of our stories, the fabric of our lives,
The dreams of those before us, the ancient hopeful cries,
The promise of our future, our needing and our nurture
Lie here before our eyes.

We come to Your feast, we come to your feast,
the young and the old, the frightened ,the bold,
the greatest and the least.
We come to Your feast, we come to Your feast,
with the fruit of our lands and the work of our hands
we come to Your feast.

We place upon Your table a humble loaf of bread,
The gift of field and hillside, the grain by which we're fed,
We come to taste the presence, of Him of whom we feed,
To strengthen and connect us,
 to challenge and correct us,
To love in word and deed. 


We place upon Your Table a simple cup of wine,
The fruit of human labour, the gift of sun and vine
We come to taste the presence of Him we claim as Lord
His dying and his living, His leading and His giving,
His love in cup out poured. 


We gather round Your table
we pause within our quest
We stand beside our neighbours, 
we name the stranger guest;
the feast is spread before us,
you bid us come and dine:
in blessing we'll uncover,
in sharing we''ll discover
your substance and your sign.


We come to Your feast, we come to Your feast,
the young and the old, the frightened ,the bold,
the greatest and the least.
We come to Your feast, we come to Your feast,
with the fruit of our lands and the work of our hands
we come to Your feast.
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