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Reflections on forthcoming Mass readings by Tom and April Hoopes.
BY The Editors
We’ll look at
two Sundays this week, since our next issue will be July 26. July 19 and July
26 are the 16th and 17th Sundays in
Ordinary Time (Year B, Cycle 1).
July 19 Readings
23:1-6; Psalm 23: 1-3, 3-4, 5, 6; Ephesians 2:13-18; Mark 6:30-34
telling the story of Christ through the metaphor of sheep, today’s readings
teach two important, paradoxical lessons: the great humility we should feel and
the great dignity God saw in us.
the humility. A friend who works with sheep has told us how much trouble they
are — because they are so stupid.
are wild horses and wild goats, but our sheep could never survive without
humans. Sheep can be easily tricked, they don’t learn quickly or consistently,
and left to their own devices, they will wander to their deaths.
easy to object to being called a sheep. We want to think of ourselves as
extraordinary creatures, and, compared to other animals, we are. But compared
to God, and even the angels, we’re far from extraordinary.
easily tricked by our appetites and led astray by our passions. We repeat the
same mistakes over and over and become the slaves of sin. When fellow sheep are
our shepherds, we suffer from a new problem: bad shepherds.
the ideal in today’s Psalm — “The Lord is my shepherd; there is nothing I shall
want” — is realized in today’s Gospel.
it, Christ invites his apostles — future shepherds — to “Come away by
yourselves and rest.” The crowds seek them out, because they are like “sheep
without a shepherd.” So Christ shows the apostles how he himself will shepherd
is an extraordinary thing: the fulfillment of the prophecy in today’s first
reading. God himself decided to shepherd his people. He took upon himself the
task of chasing strays, prodding the reluctant, tolerating human obstinacy,
cluelessness and thoughtless cruelty.
shepherds are still imperfect, but now Christ, the Good Shepherd is available
to all through the sacraments. With him as our shepherd, we are living Psalm
23. We meet Christ in the “restful waters” of baptism; we are anointed by him
in confirmation, holy orders and the anointing of the sick, and we are given
his overflowing cup in the Eucharist. With him as our shepherd, what should we
July 26 Readings
Kings 4:42-44; Psalm 145: 10-11, 15-16, 17-18; Ephesians 4:1-6; John
Today’s Gospel is about the
multiplication of the loaves. Today’s readings give some indication about God’s
1. God notices our needs.
We know he has wise spiritual
lessons for us, but we figure that he doesn’t really understand us
— real-life stuff like dinner is up to us.
this Gospel, Jesus is the one who realizes that the crowd needs to eat — and
provides. “The hand of the Lord feeds us,” as the Psalm puts it, “he answers
all our needs.”
2. God likes leftovers.
We have all seen two modes in
hosting others. First, there are those who never seem to make quite enough to
go around. Second, there are those who seem to always make more than you can
God is definitely that second kind
of host. “For thus says the Lord,” as the first reading puts it, “‘They shall
eat, and there shall be some left over!’”
3. We’re God’s waiters.
We know the concept that we are
spiritual envoys of God, bearing his message. But today’s readings drive home
that we’re also God’s waiters, bringing his food.
When God multiplies barley loaves in
the first reading, it’s through Elisha.
When Jesus feeds the multitudes in
other versions of this Gospel, it’s through the hands of the apostles.
When we serve food at table, we are
doing what they did: distributing the food God provides for his people to eat.
This is, after all, why we say grace before meals.