Seventeenth Sunday in Ordinary Time (July 29, 2018)

Throughout history, God has fed his people generously.

We just heard how he fed one hundred from the twenty barley loaves given to the prophet Elisha – and there was some left over as God had said. The Gospel recounts Jesus feeding five thousand with five barley loaves and two fish – and leftovers filled twelve baskets. God truly visits his people and feeds them generously.

But these signs were only hints of God’s generous care. At the Last Supper Jesus ate with his disciples, He takes bread and a cup of wine and gives thanks, and tells them to eat. He tells them that the bread they are eating is his body soon to be given for them, and the wine is now his blood soon to be poured out on the cross for the sins of all. Then he instructs them to continue this sacred rite in remembrance of him.

You and I are here today to continue to fulfill that command of Jesus. Each time we celebrate Eucharist, Jesus feeds us with his body and blood. Our God comes to be one with us. St. Peter Chrysologus, an early writer of the Church, asks us to open our minds and hearts to the wonder of this gift: “God always gives greater gifts than he is asked for. …He gives himself as food to be eaten. …(And God promises) ‘You who have continued with me will eat and drink at my table in my kingdom.’ He who prepares such great provisions to sustain you on your journey, what has he not prepared for you in that ever-lasting abode? So do not be anxious about the quality of this banquet.”

If our God has provided the body and blood of Jesus as food for our journey, then his promise for the future will be just as surprising and generous. What, then, are we to do as we journey? St. Paul tells us: “live in a manner worthy of the call you have received.” Live humbly, gently, patiently, bearing with one another through love. Strive to preserve the unity of the spirit through the bond of peace.

He is reminding us to remember the food we have eaten and allow Jesus to fill us with himself. As we remember, we are called to live as Jesus did, to love as Jesus loved, to be humble and gentle and patient as Jesus was, to be transformed more and more in the image of Jesus so that we can be Jesus’ presence in our world. The gifts of God are generous; the Gift-giver calls us to be generous in turn.